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Summer entertainment series include many concerts

Coordinators of various local summer entertainment series have found the right note and their own groove, especially with concerts.

Whether in downtown Myrtle Beach or Conway, a shaded park in Surfside Beach, or as summer days cool off into evenings at Brookgreen Gardens, local residents and vacationers have many choices for unwinding after hours almost any day of the week, including two bargain movie series for families.

Glenn “Houndog” Hanson of Surfside Beach will start his fourth summer of “Surfside Beach Sunday Serenades” concerts this weekend, going weekly through the day before Labor Day. From 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays, four artists will each take 45-minute turns performing in the wooded area of Surfside Beach’s Veterans Memorial, in front of Horry County Memorial Library’s newly expanded and renovated town library branch.

Having lived in Surfside Beach for more than 30 years, Hanson, a singer-songwriter, said he has met many local entertainers.

“They’re friends now,” he said.

Hanson said the Grand Strand boasts an “abundance of talent,” many people who “could be anywhere – in New York, California and major record labels, but they have jobs and live normal lives.”

Inspired, he approached Surfside Beach town officials about launching a free concert series to showcase local musicians in casual parkside get-togethers.

“We’re a family community,” Hanson said, remembering his pitch, “and I think this would enhance our family reputation.”

With concerts by the library, “all covered in live oak trees,” Hanson said, “It’s always 10 degrees cooler under there than anywhere else.”

The squirrels and birds also add to the friendly, easygoing spirit of the setting, he said.

Audiences, which sometimes number 100, include “a mix of children, young people and older people on golf carts,” Hanson said, and all to listen to the “real, good, eclectic mix” of performers.

People “who have songs with melodies,” he said, “it’s just good music to relax with.”

The genres run the gamut from Mozart pieces on violin, as well as other styles, such as bluegrass and gospel.

Another discovery Hanson has made from the first three summers of “Serenades” has been the balance of participating musicians of “professionals who make a living” with their instruments and others for whom “this is their hobby.”

“Everybody just loves to play,” he said, “and they have a supporting audience.”

‘Cool Summer Evenings’

Brookgreen Gardens, between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach, has brought its own rite of summer, “Cool Summer Evenings,” and will stay open until 9 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from June 13 through Aug. 10.

Nature nights will fill the middle evening of the pack, and performers carry the stage for the other two evenings. Even from afar, the entertainment sounds resonate through the gardens.

Pat Tukey, Brookgreen’s vice president of development and public operations, has enjoyed putting together the full slate every summer for three years.

Inaugurated in 1999 with one night weekly, the series has kept its three-night streak strong in summers since.

“Brookgreen becomes a magical place when dusk settles in,” Tukey said. “And the temperature can drop 20 degrees once the sun starts setting.”

Officials realize the “very diverse audience” that turns out across the gardens, Tukey said, and in giving visitors the chance to see Brookgreen later in the day, with entertainment and shows all free with admission, “we try to appeal to as many people as we can with a wide breadth of musicians.”

With such varieties as jazz, big band, Celtic, modern country, and rhythm and blues, local bands such as U ‘N’ I Jazz and TruSol will rock out Friday nights.

Wednesday nights will shed light on solo singer-songwriter musicians and duos, for a softer touch, and a break from one-act plays in recent years to add more music, in response to the large crowds Brookgreen enticed on Fridays last year, Tukey said.

“It’ll be more of an acoustic evening,” he said, “a little more relaxed and peaceful, to sit back and enjoy the shade of the oak trees.”

Thursdays will take a two-part tandem, starting with live animal shows at 5 p.m. by Jerry Walls, a naturalist from Hemingway who gives shows across the Grand Strand. He’ll present a different theme each week, partnering with a cast of critters including snakes, lizards and turtles.

“We’re really privileged and exited he’ll be with us all summer,” Tukey said.

The other half of special activities on Thursdays will entail “Family Fun with Science – Oh, My!” interactive learning sessions for families with young children, in the welcome center, with a bevy of subjects such as “Magnet Magic” and “Bridge Building.”

Scanning the evening schedule last week, Tukey said, “We’re just trying to keep the whole lineup each summer as fresh as we can make it.”

Visitors who want to see a week’s worth of “Cool Summer Evenings” can have it all through their paid admission.

“We’re really happy our guests take advantage of the opportunity to use their seven-day return ticket,” Tukey said. “There’s not a more beautiful place to enjoy great music and evening activities.”