Newsflash – Chick-Fil-A closes on Sunday. The suddenly controversial chicken sandwich chain doesn’t close when someone dies in its parking lot off of Mr. Joe White Avenue, a few feet from the drive-through and sits there overnight, only to be discovered the next day. It doesn’t close as the police investigate the death that occurred in said parking lot. But the fast food giant does close on Sundays.
What other businesses on the Grand Strand close on Sunday? These days, it doesn’t seem like many.
More and more businesses are not only keeping their doors open on Sunday, they’re bringing in hordes of people by introducing new events. While others are treating the end of the week like another lazy Sunday, local business owners are dreaming up fun ways to spend the seventh day, the traditional day of rest. In the fall and winter, bars come up with specials to compliment their football packages. But in the summer, it’s time for concerts, baseball games, pool parties and luaus – a large handful of Myrtle Beach area establishments are taking back Sundays and making them a day for partying. Hell, the term, Sunday Funday, has even been coined for the phenomena. Around here, it fits as adequately as Manic Monday.
Look no further than this weekend, when a tie-dyed mass of humanity is expected to descend upon the Boathouse Waterway Bar and Grill for a Sunday afternoon gathering honoring the late Jerry Garcia, JerryFest 8, meanwhile on Sunday, Grammy-winning blues guitarist Robert Cray has a gig at the House of Blues, the Therapy Oceanfront Pool Party at Hotel Blue turns the resort’s deck into Las Vegas South, and a flame-eating Hawaiian hosts a luau at Springmaid Beach Resort - to name just a few local events that are making the Lord’s Day a Good-Lord-Look-What’s-Happening-Day.
Much of the momentum has to be traced to The Boathouse, which has been supplying quality live acts for free on Sunday afternoon/evenings for the last few years, from rockers Fuel and drivin’ ‘n’ cryin’ to hip-hop artist Coolio to country crooners Rhett Akins, Kip Moore and Gloriana to a slew of reggae/rock acts. Concerts that not only can be enjoyed by us landlubbers but also, anyone with a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway can cruise on up and soak up the party.
The events have been dubbed “Sunday Funday” (a term that’s catching on at other joints) and draw a diverse crowd to the banks of the Waterway, over which the sound stage dangles.
“Sunday is an off day for everyone,” says Boathouse manager Jason Black. “Bands are travelling to and from show dates...Everyone else fights for Friday and Saturday business...Besides, what else are you going do on a Sunday afternoon? And Saturday Funday just doesn’t have the same ring to it.”
What Does It All Mean?
South Carolina is smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. We could be seen as the flashing neon buckle of the Bible Belt. But The Grand Strand is also an ever-evolving location. Generation after generation, The Grand Strand has redefined itself and its intensions according to population growth and deviating demographics. People migrate from small inland towns and from the north and Midwest for work in the hospitality fields and our warmer, more tropical climate. There are influxes of youth due to the emergence of Coastal Carolina University.
Melody Smith and Olivia Cox are two of the crowd at the Aug. 5 Rehab show at The Boathouse. Both 21, recent transplants from the mountains of North Carolina, Cox says, “We’re never going back.” We ask if either of them went to church this morning. Smith says, “I was at work at seven-thirty this morning. I used to go every Sunday before I moved down here.” Smith is a manager at Rite Aid and GNC. Cox, who is a medical assistant, adds, “I did get a spiritual quote from my aunt this morning,” and shows us the Bible quote on her phone. Smith tells us she comes to The Boathouse all the time, “There are a lot of great bands here on Sundays.” Cox admits it’s her first time but says, “It’s a perfect environment for an outdoor person like me. I like to meet new people. I flash a smile and I get a free drink.”
The factions of Bible Belters who still hold Sunday as the Lord’s holy day of rest are still here – silence doesn’t echo off the empty pews of churches that have fallen by the wayside of hedonism yet. Regardless, the evidence shows that more and more Americans are leaving the constructed realms of church service to worship in their own ways, if they worship at all. But let’s not confuse American statistics with Bible Belt statistics.
Polls instituted by Gallup International in 2009 indicate South Carolina is tied with Louisiana at No. 3 in weekly church attendance, following only Alabama at No. 2 and Mississippi at No. 1. According to the same Gallup study – 56 percent of South Carolinians attends a weekly church service, be it church, synagogue or mosque.
But wait, if you take a closer look at that huge number, you’ll see two things – 1. It’s down from previous years and 2. People lie.
Journalists Rebecca Barnes and Lindy Lowry report how these polls really work in “7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America” posted on www.churchleaders.com. Their article shows that not only has attendance dropped but people lie to pollsters about whether they attend church. The numbers just don’t match - 40 percent of the people polled said they attended church but the actual numbers that church officials reported are less than 20 percent.
Sociologists and experts in church-relating research C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler claim this is “The Halo Effect” – When pollsters say what they wished they had done instead of what they actually did. Of these stats, the attendance of young adults has declined year after year. Young people are busier than they used to be. Their free time is reduced and they’re not attending church like the generations of the past did. The Pew Research Center states, “Americans ages 18 to 29 are considerably less religious than older Americans…Fully one-in-four adults under age 30 (25 percent) are unaffiliated, describing their religion as ‘atheist,’ ‘agnostic’ or ‘nothing in particular.’”
Travis Rogers, 21, and Mark Crim, 23, live just around the corner from The Boathouse at River Landing. Both are students at CCU. We ask them if either of them went to church the morning of the Rehab show and Crim responds, “Does watching it on TV count?” When we ask if he really did, he says, “No.” Crim tells us they come here because, “It’s a hop, jump and a skip from the house. No cover, good bands, and chicks in bikinis.” Rogers chimes in, “And cheap beer.” Then Rogers reaffirms Black’s adage, “What else are you going to do on a Sunday?”
Even when our twenty-somethings don’t lie or are too busy or have chosen not to believe, the sociologists and church statisticians all agree that the pews are getting less and less full. Even when the overall number in attendance is the same, it’s a decline because they’re not keeping pace with population growth. And any business owner can tell you, if you’re not growing your business, you’re killing your business.
And where are we going with this? If fewer people along the Grand Strand are involved in Sunday church activities, that must mean they’ve got to be involved in other diversions on Sundays, no?
Couple the fact that Horry County is one of seven counties in the state where Sunday sales of beer and wine are allowed in retail outlets with the fact that a large portion of employees in the service industry have Mondays off and you have a party in the making.
Whether you make it to an early church service and want to let your hair down after or you’re lost and wandering the wasteland looking for a place to connect, hopefully, we have something in these listings for the upcoming Summer Sundays. Hopefully, there’s something here that will inspire or lift your spirit or lend you fellowship. If nothing else, we guarantee there’s something here that will make your Sunday a fun day.
The Boathouse – Sunday Funday Outdoor Summer Concert Series
201 Fantasy Harbour Blvd, Myrtle Beach. 903-2628; www.boathousemb.com
House of Blues
Barefoot Landing, 4640 U.S. 17 S, North Myrtle Beach. 272–3000; www.houseofblues.com/myrtlebeach
Hotel Blue’s Mixx Pool Bar
705 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach. 448-4304; www.hotelbluemb.com/amenities
Springmaid Beach Resort’s Luau
3200 South Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach. 315-7100; www.springmaidbeach.com/hawaiian-luau
Myrtle Beach Pelicans at TicketReturn.com Field
1251 21st Ave. N., Myrtle Beach. 918-6000; www.myrtlebeachpelicans.com.
Hot Fish Club’s Sol Sundays
4911 U.S. 17 Business, Murrells Inlet. 357-9175; www.hotfishclub.com
The Alabama Theatre
4750 U.S. 17 S., North Myrtle Beach. 272-1111; www.alabama-theatre.com