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Society of Stranders on Safari

Things are coming in threes this year for the Society of Stranders.

Don David of Murrells Inlet, a member of the SOS board, talked about the group's Spring Safari, which starts today and lasts for 10 days, and this year's theme, a Year of Anniversaries.

The SOS parade chairman for 13 years, David said this marks 15 years since the group's first parade. This year also marks 20 years since the Association of Carolina Shag Clubs purchased SOS from original owner Swink Laughter and 25 years since then-Gov. Richard Riley signed the law declaring the shag the official state dance.

Several clubs, mainly on Ocean Drive in North Myrtle Beach, crank the dance music with live performers and disc jockeys, special cookouts and other means of gaiety. Each place has a schedule of activities, so anyone looking to learn the shag and its six steps has his or her pick of workshops and lessons from professionals.

Running over each commemoration, David started with the biggest Spring Safari event, the parade, a fixture on Main Street in North Myrtle Beach. This year, it's at 1 p.m. April 25, stepping off from the Kroger parking lot on Main Street.

He said SOS officials have researched to find any bigger noncommercial parade in the United States than this affair, which draws about 650 participants every year.

David said the association has grown to more than 100 shag clubs across 11 Southeast states, with 14,000 members in all.

He said the music that inspired the state dance ties in with an adage he incorporated into an announcement for WVCO-FM 94.9 "The Surf."

"It's the beach music," he said. "We like to say it's music for adults."

However, the style has no age limits.

"We have junior shaggers who are fantastic dancers, as young as 12," David said.

The SOS also puts on a Fall Migration for 10 days in autumn (Sept. 11-20), and a five-day Mid-Winter Break in January.

Tom Barrineau of Garden City Beach, the SOS vice president, said the association started in the early 1980s with five shag clubs, when the dance had a revival. He and David said the turnout for such annual shag events doesn't slow down.

"It grows every year," Barrineau said. "It's getting bigger and bigger."

He remembered the 1940s and '50s. "We all learned this fast dance, as we called it," Barrineau said. "We called it fast dance or slow dance; there wasn't anything else."

He said the Shaggers Hall of Fame annual dance exhibition is at 4 p.m. April 25 at Fat Harold's Beach Club, and on April 26, its owner, Harold Bessent, will lead an auction, which centers on another major element of SOS: charity.

Besides donations of funds through the years to the North Myrtle Beach Department of Public Safety for more golf carts and bicycles, and extra equipment for North Myrtle Beach Fire and Rescue, Barrineau said other needy beneficiaries include children's causes and other needy people assisted through the Hall of Fame Foundation (halloffamefoundation.org) across the Carolinas.

Outside of the costs to arrange for space and hire bands and the like for events such as Spring Safari, SOS likes to invest proceeds into the area, such as improvements for Ocean Drive and raising $600 so children with cancer can attend a summer camp.

"We don't get a nickel," Barrineau said. "And that's the way it should be."

If you go



What

Who | Society of Stranders

When | Today through April 26

Where | Various sites, mostly on Ocean Drive in North Myrtle Beach, such as Fat Harold's Beach Club, Ducks Grill /Ducks Too!, OD Arcade, OD Beach & Golf Resort, and Pirate's Cove.

How much | Varies by site; SOS memberships $35

www.shagdance.com

Schedule

Nightly entertainment at 2001 Nightclub, 920 Lake Arrowhead Road, north of Myrtle Beach, off U.S. 17, south of S.C. 22/Kings Road. Show times 9:30 p.m.; doors open 8 p.m. (SOS cardholders free through Tuesday, half off Wednesday-April 25). Details at 449-9435 or www.2001nightclub.com:

Today and April 24 | Craig Woolard Band

Saturday | Tim Clark Band

Sunday | Swing Time Big Band Jazz Orchestra

Monday | Coastline

Tuesday | Sea Cruz

Wednesday | Legends of Beach

Thursday | Mark Roberts & Breeze

Saturday | Fabulous Kays

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