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Fourth of July: For Pawleys parade judges, cute sells

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

The prize is 26 inches of marblized, gilded, red-white-and-blue plastic that weighs just over 2 pounds, 14 ounces. To get their hands on it people are willing to sweat under fake beards, strip down to their Speedos, labor late at night and yell their heads off.

It’s the top prize. Best Overall.

This is the 45th annual Pawleys Island Fourth of July Parade. For most of this century, the prizes have been handed out by the Transplant Garden Club, a group of women who made their mark on the parade as contestants in the last century.

They can sum up what it takes to win in a single word:

Cute.

Or clever.

Or funny.

The town started giving out prizes almost 25 years ago. It gives out $250 in cash to the best musical entry as a way to inspire performers.

For several years, the Transplants continued to dress up even when judging. Darlene Adams, one of the club, said she starts thinking about likely themes in anticipation of the big day. Paula Deen? Golf carts? What will float builders latch onto?

“More is better. The more effort we see, the better,” said Hilde Hopkins, another Transplant.

Mike Britt and his family won Most Patriotic last year for a pirate ship and Best Overall in 2011 for a full-size replica of Snoopy’s Sopwith Camel. Family travel plans kept him out of the parade this year, he said, so the judges will be looking for someone to step up.

“He really put a lot into his floats,” Adams said. “They were beautiful.”

Trophies are also handed out for Most Enthusiastic, Best Children’s Float, and Most Humorous. There are also three honorable mentions and trophies for the best decorated houses on the island’s north and south ends.

“Humor is the toughest,” Adams said.

She and Hopkins admit that judging is often a matter of deciding how to apportion the trophies among the best floats. They almost always have kids or patriotism or enthusiasm in common.

Pirates, mermaids and crabs are also common, Hopkins said.

“They were so cute,” said Adams, recalling last year’s “Dancing with the Starfish” float. “Cute and funny sells.”

She and Hopkins will be joined by Susan Hibbs, Susan Felder and Melodie Henderson. They will check out the floats as they line up on the South Causeway starting at 9:30 a.m.

They will watch them head off toward the south end then take up position in front of Town Hall.

“The final decision isn’t until they pass Town Hall,” Hopkins said.

While the parade winds through the north end, the judges compare notes and give the results to Mayor Bill Otis. Trophies are handed out when the floats return.

“They’re the perfect judges,” Otis said. “They take it seriously and have a lot of fun in the process.”

Adams agreed. “We’ve got our notes. It’s a job,” she said.

She wondered if Don’t Strip the Neck would be a theme. With strippers?

“Now I wish I was in the parade,” she said.

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