For a lot of us, there is a melancholy feeling of sadness, fond memories and hope that things might change in the future when it comes to hearing the news last week that the Sun Fun Festival has been cancelled for this season. The Chamber and the City of Myrtle Beach have only themselves to blame, instead of the people they say don't come anymore.
Having grown up in a big city and worked in the cores of some of the nation’s largest cities, I have had plenty of experience enjoying all kinds of festivals…food, military, religious, Irish, Italian, Greek, Scottish, Gay Pride (I’m not gay), the fantastic Tampa Gasparilla Pirate Festival, the San Antonio Mexican Festival, and of course Mardi Gras…the list is endless. And, what would Mardi Gras be without Bourbon Street?
The one common element in all of these events was their proximity to the core of the community…mostly as downtown as you could make it. I doubt very much whether New York City’s Hells Kitchen food festival would work if it were moved to Central Park, or that Mardi Gras would work if it were moved to the edge of Lake Pontchartrain. Yet that’s just what the Chamber did here in Myrtle Beach when they moved it to our version of Central Park…otherwise known as Grand Park. We did have a perfect place for the festival, Ocean Boulevard and the Pavilion. But the Pavilion was removed and our city festival organizers got the idea that Ocean Boulevard would no longer be the best place for the festival.
There is much more to a festival than the official events and the smoky sidewalk food venues. The number one ingredient is people, and when people are all jammed together on a street such as Ocean Boulevard, forced to bump into one another and hear the laughter of other people, it becomes a true festival. The festivals in Grand Park, despite the parachute jumps, athletic competition and watercraft antics lacked the aura of a true festival. I heard a few officials say putting the festival out there gave people a chance to stretch their legs and get some exercise. For Pete’s Sake, who wants exercise when you go to a festival to meet people, eat sausage and listen to music? The only way to make a festival work out there would be to take over the streets of Market Common. Yeah, right! I’m sure that idea would go over like a lead balloon.
I was involved in a number of Sun Fun Parades and covered all of them for one media outlet or another. I even had family members in them and assisted friends and their kids who rode floats in them. They were really fun and the Ocean Boulevard funnel from about 8th Avenue North to about 20th Avenue North gave the whole thing an aura of true celebration.
There are plans in the works, apparently, to reconstitute Sun Fun next year, maybe. My hope is to have it relocated back to Ocean Boulevard if only for a weekend. Bring back the air show and a float parade, although it looks as if our Memorial Day parade may fill the bill there. It just needs more pizzazz and community involvement. Give us back the street vendors and put down a wood dance floor with a nearby bandstand. Concerts on big stages in the grass are OK, but Ocean Boulevard and Sun Fun are all about dancing. Oh well, in the meantime, there’s still the beach.