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Pawleys parade marches toward its golden anniversary

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Amid the sirens, the rock and the jazz, if you listened closely you could hear hoofbeats at the 49th annual Pawleys Island Fourth of July Parade.

Matt and Nicki Mitchell brought their golf cart from Atlanta to the Sawyer house on Springs Avenue to celebrate Independence Day and the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. With their children Nella and Luke, they rode Pawleys Pride, predicting it the next Triple Crown winner.

A pair of Solo cups with the bottoms cut out were taped to an iPhone, amplifying the recorded sound of horses’ hooves thundering, or at least clip-clopping, along the track. Others among the 42 floats in this year’s parade heard the sound of the event turning into the homestretch and racing toward its golden anniversary. Those included Nancy Johnston, whose grandmother Nancy Bondurant was the parade’s first grand marshal.

Johnston’s daughter Sally Keyser put together the family’s float this year, a utility trailer turned into a pirate ship. It won the trophy for Best Kids for a crew waving flags and cutlasses. But Johnston said she already had ideas for 2016, not for publication, however.

George Meighen, then a 39-year-old lieutenant colonel in the Army, was staying at the Cassena Inn in July 1966 before heading to Korea to command an infantry battalion. His mother-in-law owned the inn. Against a rising tide of protests against the Vietnam war and the military draft, they organized a parade.

Meighen returned in 1995 to serve as grand marshal. That was the year the Edmunds family decided to build a float based on the film “Forrest Gump” that had opened a year earlier. Blake Edmunds ran the parade route dressed in khakis, plaid shirt (buttoned at the collar) and cap. This year, the family reprised the entry, with Blake riding on an authentic Snapper Hi-Vac lawnmower towed behind “The Jenny.” Answering the call of “run, Forrest, run” was Jimmy Owens.

Strictly speaking, the town doesn’t allow walkers or runners in the parade, but the panel of parade judges overruled any objections and gave the Edmunds float the trophy for Best Overall.

The Mitchells’ horsey theme finished out of the running. “We were afraid to be too political,” Matt said. Others waded right in.

Opponents of offshore drilling turned a VW convertible into a blue whale. It was filled with a jellyfish, a mermaid, a starfish and a sea turtle, all threatened by oil and gas exploration, they said. “The Few, the Proud, the Marine Life,” read one sign. “Tell Haley to Save the Whaleys” was the message displayed above the tail fin.

The entry from SODA (Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic) won the trophy for Most Original. Otis, who drew the ire of some members of the group when he said he favors drilling for gas, was at Town Hall to award the trophy. In exchange he got a fan with the group’s message. “Give it some thought,” said Margaret Sands, who was dressed as a jellyfish.

Then there was Pawleys Island Deflategate. The Willcox and Dotterer families were the unapologetic Pawleys Patriots, celebrating their Beach Ball XLIX championship despite some balls that were suspiciously underinflated. “Deflated but not Defeated,” was their claim. They won the trophy for Most Enthusiastic.

If there was an award for Most Controversial, it would have gone to the Hungler family and friends for “Pawleys Island Coneheads.” Instead, their collection of orange construction cones, barrels, safety vests and hard hats all mocking the Highway 17 median project had to settle for Most Humorous.

“We saw a lot of people laugh when we came around the corner,” Mathias Hungler said. It was his mom Anna’s idea and she was thrilled to get a trophy, he added.

Most Patriotic went to “Fort Pawley,” the creation of Mike Britt who has won past trophies for a pirate ship and a replica of Snoopy’s Sopwith Camel. The fort, built from red, white and blue carpet tubes mounted a single cannon and a sign reading “Guarding the Pursuit of Happiness Since 1772.”

The Best Musical award includes a trophy and a check for $250, an effort by the town to encourage more performances. This year it went to three members of the Dawgs of Dixie, a Dixieland jazz band. They were hired for the parade and a party by Norman Elder of Pawleys Plantation who drove them on the back of his pickup, a 1928 Chevy.

Elder said he didn’t know about the prize when he signed up. His was the No. 1 float. Michael James, who played banjo with Chris Connolly on trombone and Herb Roselle on tuba, said they got a good response from the people who packed the roadside for the parade.

The judges, several of whom collected trophies years ago as members of The Transplants, also handed out honorable mentions to the Pelican Inn for its P.I. Pelican Air Force, the deHaas family for a crowd of flag wavers under the banner of “Pawleys Floats our Boat,” the Crymes family for “America’s Original Avengers,” the Guess house for their Sandlapper theme and the Marion family for a truck filled with a crowd chanting “USA, USA.”

A sixth honorable mention went unclaimed. After three generations of parading and not winning, the folks from Granny’s Beachhouse on Atlantic Avenue didn’t bother to swing past Town Hall at the end of the parade.

“We won? You’re kidding,” said Millie Hart when reached by phone this week. “We’ve been in the parade every year since it started, except one.”

They rode in a 1966 Ford pickup.

Because the holiday fell on a Saturday, the day when visitors check out of their rental houses, the number of entries was down from 2014. The parade started an hour later than usual to allow renters to get off the island before the roads closed.

The timing made the appearance of the grand marshal all the more unusual. Linwood Altman, owner of Pawleys Island Realty and president of the Pawleys Island Civic Association, led the parade. “I’ve been asking Linwood, but I never could get him,” Otis said.

“There was a lot of conversation that went into it,” said Altman, perched in a comfy chair under an umbrella on the back of a utility trailer. It was his first ride in the parade, though he recalled watching plenty of them and even throwing water back before trophies supplanted water fights.

“He said if I could get four pretty girls he’d do it,” Otis said. So he talked to Altman’s granddaughters, Sarah and Casey, and had them recruit some friends. “I said, ‘It’s the 49th year. It’s time,’ ” Otis said.

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Inlet boat parade continues to grow by land and water

By Roger Greene
Coastal Observer

Some were fortunate to find a table and enjoy the fare offered by waterfront restaurants. Others crowded onto the Marsh Walk.

Many chose to spread out along the inlet, standing or sitting on blankets and lawn chairs. A select few chose the water.

Whatever the vantage point, the 32nd annual Murrells Inlet Fourth of July Boat Parade offered a little something for everyone and served as an ideal way for families from the Waccamaw Neck and beyond to kick off the holiday.

“It’s always a great family event and a wonderful way to celebrate the fourth,” said Lee Hewitt, one of the founders of the event who has remained involved in its organization. “Our expectations continue to be exceeded.”

Said Murrells Inlet resident Dave Searles, “I started coming four years ago and now it’s something I don’t miss. I love the interaction between the boats and the people watching and enjoy the flags and patriotism. What a great way to pump up America.”

More than 100 boats participated in the parade, navigating the inlet from Garden City Point to Morse Park Landing and cheered on by the throngs in attendance. Those numbers are another positive sign for a celebration that continues to trend upward.

“As the inlet continues to grow, so does the parade,” Hewitt said. “It’s become tradition for so many families. Every year it gets bigger and we see more involvement.

“We had a record number of pre-registrations, twice as much as we did last year. I’m sure when everything is added up we’ll have set other records as well.”

A number of first-time spectators were among the crowd, promising this would not be the last time they would be in attendance.

“I’ve lived in the area for just under a year,” said Tom McCormick of Murrells Inlet. “I started reading about it on the Internet, then found out from friends that they were going to have boats and be involved. I’m looking forward to seeing them and also to enjoying the whole day. This is a nice way to start.”

Said Socastee resident Helene Taylor, “I’ve only been here about six weeks, so I was looking for a fun way to celebrate the Fourth. I love the audience participation and the creativity you see with the boats and the docks. I’ll definitely be back.”

“Red, White and Southern” was the theme for this year’s parade and spectators and participants displayed those themes in a variety of manners. Old Glory was the flag and apparel of choice, followed closely by the colors of the Palmetto State and, of course, the University of South Carolina and Clemson. Flags representing every branch of the armed forces were displayed with pride, as were those illustrating particular military causes, such as the Wounded Warrior Project and POW-MIA. Fryers and grills were running at full capacity from the restaurants and docks, sending flavorful aromas onto the inlet waters. Musical accompaniment for the boats ranged from Neil Young’s “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World” to the more laid back stylings of the Zack Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried” along with patriotic-themed anthems such as “God Bless the USA” from Lee Greenwood. As always, the boats drove close enough to the shore to exchange blasts in the traditional water fights with spectators.

“We were looking for a family adventure for the fourth and found out about this on Twitter,” said Charleston resident Jessica Hilliard, who was on a holiday getaway in Litchfield. “My brother-in-law was looking up the different parades and we made the decision to come. We made a wise choice.

“I’m enjoying the energy from the crowd and from the people in the boats. And the boats are amazing. I love the decorations and the colors. It’s very artistic.”

Though competition is hardly the order of the day, the awards for best boat and best dock are always a point of pride for participants. The Cockfield family took top honors among boaters – their third win – while Leon and Jan Rice took first place for the top dock.

The Cockfield’s boat was a mixture of patriotic themes along with those more central to the Palmetto State, such as yellow jasmine, tea parties and shag dancing. For their award-winning effort, the Rice family borrowed heavily from “Chicken Fried.”

“My sister [Sissy King Daniel] is the artistic and creative one in the family,” said Costa King Cockfield, “They say I’m the bossy one, so that’s why we make such a good team. Though everyone in the family likes to take credit when we win.

“We’ve entered seven times and every year when I say we are going to take a break, the children talk me into entering again. July Fourth has become one of our favorite holidays and Murrells Inlet is definitely the place to be.”

The Rice home has been in the family for nearly a century. The family used to be regular participants in the boat contest, but with July Fourth now serving as more of a family reunion, the dock competition allowed for more participation. This year though, the family admitted to more of an outside influence on their creativity.

“We stole a lot of ideas from the song,” Jan Rice said in reference to the Zac Brown hit. “We have family that is spread out all over. Once a year we get to see each other and decorating the dock is a great way for us to spend time together. We put a lot of effort into it, but we also have a lot of fun.”

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North Litchfield parade draws kids of all ages

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Ruth Tuttle, 97, of Winston-Salem, N.C., thought the North Litchfield July Fourth children’s parade sounded like fun and wanted to ride in it.

And why not? The North Litchfield parade is all about showing off some red, white and blue for Independence Day. There are no restrictions, except on vehicles with internal-combustion engines, and the parade is a laid-back affair with people on decorated golf carts and bikes rolling around the route and greeting their neighbors with “Happy Fourth” and handfuls of candy and plastic beads.

Tuttle rode in a golf cart with her daughter Anne Gordon and great-grandchildren Anna and Caroline Clifton in the parade last week to celebrate America’s birthday.

Rhea and Henry Carter were back in their golf cart after missing last year’s 25th anniversary parade to attend a funeral. That was only the second time they had missed the neighborhood parade, Rhea said.

Vacationers joined locals for the celebration. Clay Coffman, vacationing from New Hampshire, was dressed as Uncle Sam as he rode a bicycle in the parade. Castle Coffman, who rode in the family’s golf cart, said their decorations were more elaborate than last year’s.

Patriotic streamers, balloons and bunting turned the route into a river of red, white and blue. Two riders in cowgirl hats, representing the Kelly-Rudy families, were having a blast throwing plastic beads to people along the route.

The parade was over as suddenly as it began, the streets littered with hard candy and broken strings of beads. It was time to reload the golf carts for a day on the beach.

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