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Myrtle Beach Boardwalk aims to start holiday tradition

The Oceanfront Merchants Association celebrates St. Patrick’s Day and Oktoberfest full tilt every year on Myrtle Beach’s Ocean Boulevard and “Hot Summer Nights” with concerts and fireworks, so why not Christmas for six Saturdays along the city boardwalk?

“Holidays on the Boardwalk” opens Saturday for six weekly celebrations that will include local entertainers, trackless train rides and Santa Claus arriving on his Harley-Davidson and later doing some different kind of meet-and-greets. Those include riding Dec. 1 on a zipline and making rounds Dec. 8 on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel.

The “Lighting of the Boardwalk” ceremony happens at 7 p.m. Saturday on the boardwalk at Myrtle Beach’s Plyler Park, at North Ocean Boulevard and Mr. Joe White Avenue.

Other scheduled amenities include “The Polar Express” trackless train rides on boardwalk starting Dec. 15, movies on a big screen that night at the former Pavilion Amusement Park site, and an “Ugly Holiday Sweater Contest” Dec. 22.

Lauren Clever, executive assistant for the Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, which supports the association, said with the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk gaining popularity as part of a new identity for the city, its businesses want to continue its attraction that has worked well in the other seasons.

The merchants want families and friends – locals and those on vacation – to continue finding time to spend on the boardwalk besides summer and the “shoulder seasons,” Clever said, which prompted this new celebration to kick off Christmastime.

“We’re really wanting to build a sense of community and such spirit down there during the winter season as well,” she said.

Just as folks might gather and spend a summer evening downtown by Plyler Park or ride the SkyWheel and dine nearby, Clever said officials also aim to entice newcomers to the scene this season.

“Many people have not been on the boardwalk,” she said. “They might have had the same old picture of how the area used to be.”

Calling the upgrades and additions to the business district since the boardwalk opened in May 2010 “a transformation,” Clever said this “Holidays on the Boardwalk” inaugural event “could start a new tradition.”

“That’s the goal,” she said.

Adding Elvis to Christmas

Entertainment will spotlight various local performers such as David Chaney of Myrtle Beach. He will pay tribute to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll with four concerts, “A Blue Christmas with Elvis,” 5-7 p.m. Saturday, and 6-8 p.m. Dec. 1, 8, 15 and 22, on the Ninth Avenue North stage.

An Elvis tribute artist for about six years, Chaney said besides “Blue Christmas,” popular yuletide songs he sings include “Santa Claus Is Back in Town,” “Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me),” “Silent Night” and “If Every Day Could Be like Christmas.”

“I grew up listening to these when I was a little boy,” Chaney said. “My family played ‘Elvis Christmas Album’ every single year when I was growing up, so I know all these songs in my sleep.”

He said he works in some Elvis gospel hits and some standards such as “Hound Dog,” “All Shook Up” and “Suspicious Minds.”

Chaney credits his wife of 20 years, Kathy Chaney, for giving him a karaoke machine “as a joke one Christmas.” That later spurred his Elvis tributes, which he warmed up and developed in shows for retirement homes, assisted living facilities, churches and other functions.

Since moving to Myrtle Beach in 2008 from Winston-Salem, N.C., Chaney has enjoyed giving his tribute shows in various venues along the Grand Strand, including boardwalk sites such as Boardwalk Bills Bar & Grill and evenings this past summer in Plyler Park.

“It’s a privilege to play on the boardwalk,” Chaney said. “We take requests from people, and we always give plugs to all the businesses around us.”

He also voiced hopes the boardwalk turns into a “year-round place for people.”

“We’re just trying to have much fun as we can in that area,” he said. “The boardwalk is the best thing to happen to Myrtle Beach in 30 years.”