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Pawleys Island: Pavilion Reunion may dance once more

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

It looked like the Pawleys Pavilion Reunion might have perished this year, another victim of a floundering economy.

But Gretchen Downer and Sheri Nannarello hope to revive it.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to pull it off or not, but we’re going to give it a try,” said Nannarello.

She was approached by Downer about a month ago and asked to get involved with the effort. Since then, the two have enlisted others who attended and “helped a bit” with the event in years past.

They got the blessing of Pawleys Island Town Council on Monday and will now see if there are enough sponsors to make having the event in 2010 a possibility.

“It’s an expensive endeavor,” Nannarello said. “Hopefully we can pull it off, but we’ll just have to see.”

The event will again be hosted by the Pawleys Island-Litchfield Business Association.

An annual event created 13 years ago to celebrate the last in a series of dance halls that existed on the island until 1970, the reunion was canceled this year when organizers were unable to raise enough money to pay for it.

The S.C. Environmental Law Project adopted the May event as a fund-raiser last year, after the Chamber of Commerce withdrew, citing other commitments. Grants the Law Project had hoped to receive did not materialize and, thanks to the economy, neither did sponsorships.

With the economy still in the early stages of recovery and people holding tight to their money, Downer and Nannarello said they know they’ve got their work cut out, but they’re hopeful.

“Our biggest obstacle is to try to get sponsorships and upfront money, so there’s a pot to stir with any expenses we need at the beginning, such as deposits for a band,” Downer said.

“We’re hoping certain organizations will be generous; that’s it in a nutshell.”

They’re counting on sponsors who were faithful in the past coming through again, recognizing the event is good for tourism.

“I know our local merchants always get their doors knocked on too many times, but we’re going to be knocking anyway and we hope they’ll be receptive, knowing this is an event that brings a lot of fun, but also brings them business,” Downer said.

Nannarello and Downer have help from the South Strand Shag Club, a resource Downer said might help in the search for funding. She believes they might be aware of resources organizers in the past wouldn’t have had access to.

Organizers will meet in two weeks to delegate duties and get ready to start seeking funding immediately. Downer will be an asset in that process. She’s no stranger to fund-raising.

For two years, Downer was co-chair of Brookgreen Gardens’ spring gala. When she stepped down this year, she started looking for a new project to take on.

“I realized that the reunion hadn’t happened this year, and I didn’t know why,” Downer said.

She asked around and when she found out it was a funding issue, she decided to try to bring it back.

She and her husband, Tom, are “big time beach music lovers and shaggers from way back” who attended the reunion regularly.

“I thought to myself, ‘don’t let a good thing go down through the cracks,’ ” she said.

The reunion gives people “a night when they can go back in time, down memory lane, and stir the memories of their youth and the fun they used to have at the Pavilion,” she said.

As organizers start the process of fund-raising, they’ll also be looking for a band to headline the event.

“We want to hire a really, really good band with lots of name recognition,” Downer said. She believes that may help draw more people to the reunion, as well as attracting sponsorships.

If next year’s reunion goes forth, it may be “a little bit different” from what people have come to know, Nannarello said. That’s a result of it being organized by a different group, but she assures it won’t change too much.

“It’ll still be the same type of thing,” she said. “As far as somebody just going to it, they aren’t going to see much difference.”

As to what changes might occur, she said she’s not sure yet.

“We haven’t gotten that far. Before we get to that, we have to see if we can get funding. That’s what we’re really focused on right now.”

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