The unofficial first weekend of summer kicked off with sun and salt in Myrtle Beach
The Sun Fun Festival is back this weekend after a five-year hiatus, and organizers hope it brings a nostalgia to Myrtle Beach.
Tourists and locals moan about losing the former Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park, located between Eighth and Ninth avenues North and Kings Highway in September 2006, and then shortly after, in 2011, losing the Sun Fun Festival — a fest designed in 1951 to attract tourists to the area on an otherwise slow weekend for hoteliers and businesses.
“We interact with a lot of locals and tourists throughout the year and they always ask about the Sun Fun Festival,” said Michelle Kerscher, who works at the Gay Dolphin on Ocean Boulevard and has helped organize the event. “That’s the first thing that they ask... We kind of felt like the nostalgic Myrtle Beach feeling was missing down here. We understand that things grow and change, and improve and renovate. But, we were kind of missing some of that old Myrtle Beach feeling, especially with losing the Pavilion and things changing down here.
“Sun Fun was always the way that they kicked off the summer.”
Some said the festival lost its original allure when it moved from the oceanfront and Ocean Boulevard area to Grand Park near The Market Common.
This year’s highlights include the Sun Fun parade, with Grand Marshal Maurice Williams, daily performances by the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team, free games for kids and live beach music and Motown bands. The festival will work in conjunction with The Native Sons Salt Games, which is a series of competitive beach games throughout Saturday and Sunday this weekend.
The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce suspended the Sun Fun Festival in 2012, saying it didn’t bring visitors to the beach as it did in its early years and didn’t generate enough revenue to cover the expenses. Chamber officials said then they wanted businesses or sponsors to step up to help put on the festival, but none came forward until now.
“When the chamber transitioned to becoming an event promoter instead of an event producer, this left a void in early June and a dedicated team of businesses and volunteers have stepped up to resume the festival,” said Brad Dean, chamber president and CEO. “Our role is simply that of a promoter, and we eagerly allowed the group, led by Buz Plyler, [of the Gay Dolphin] full use of the Sun Fun brand.”
As for what impact the festival will have after taking a five-year break, Dean remained optimistic.
“It remains to be seen what economic impact this year’s festival will have, but we are hopeful that this first June weekend will see increased traffic from Sun Fun and the Salt Games, followed up by what we fully expect to be a significant increase in attendance to the Carolina Country Music Festival,” Dean said.
The music fest is planned for June 9-12 in the same area of town.
Sun Fun used to have a 5K run, a fun run and food and alcohol vendors, which is already provided by the Salt Games this year. So, Sun Fun will provide the live entertainment, family-friendly games and activities, the Sun Fun Jail and the Golden Knights Army Parachute Team.
“Sun Fun, when it moved, kind of lost the beach element, and it kind of lost what Sun Fun was for the majority of 60 years,” Kerscher said. “We’re bring back some of the more popular elements of Sun Fun, trying to keep some of that old Myrtle Beach feeling while trying to coordinate with the Salt Games, who are able to offer what Sun Fun used to offer... We’re trying to create an event to give the tourists a reason to get here early, and also to bring the locals out and bring them down to the boardwalk, where they don’t usually come.”
WHAT: Return of “Sun Fun Festival,” after five-year hiatus, continuing annual tradition from 1951-2011
WHERE: Myrtle Beach’s Plyler Park, at Mr. Joe White Avenue and North Ocean Boulevard, and nearby on boardwalk and beach, with various activities 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
▪ Friday in park – Kickoff at 6:45 p.m. with crowning of Sun Fun King and Queen, in Plyler Park, with Diane DeVaughn Stokes – host of “Diane at Six,” 6-7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays on WEZV-FM “Easy” 105.9 and WGTN-FM 100.7, and anchor for HTC’s “Inside Out,” a monthly hourlong cable TV show – as master of ceremonies; and The Legacy Motown Revue, 7:15-9:15 p.m.
▪ Saturday – Parade 10 a.m., southward on Ocean Boulevard between Eighth and 16th avenues North, with Lancaster native Maurice Williams – from the Zodiacs doo-wop group in the 1950s-’60s and best known for “Stay” – as grand marshal, and Stokes as emcee; and concerts in park – Legends in Concert tribute artists at 11:45 a.m., The SwashTones noon-2 p.m., The Entertainers 3:30-5:30, and The Swingin’ Medallions 7:45-10.
▪ Sunday – Concerts in park by The Castaways 2 p.m., and Too Much Sylvia 4:30 p.m.
▪ Daily in park – U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute demonstrations, 9:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and noon Sunday.
HOW MUCH: Free
INFORMATION: 843-448-6550 or www.sunfunmb.com