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Murrells Inlet: Tide extends celebration over long weekend

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Murrells Inlet celebrated America’s birthday twice this year with the 34th annual boat parade on Saturday afternoon’s high tide and a fireworks show Monday night.

“We get two Fourths this year,” said Leon Rice from his winning dock during Saturday’s boat parade. The Rices won first place for best dock for the 10th time with their theme “Baby Seals to Navy SEALS.” The theme of the parade this year was “Saluting the Military.”

Rice said he’s passed the job of defending the dock title to the family’s next generation. Nephews and grandsons from California, Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia put on naval hats and marched in place to the Village People’s “In The Navy” as they waved semaphore flags at passing boats. Members of an even younger generation on the dock were dressed as baby seals before they got hot and went for a swim.

Danny and Janet Miller took second place in the dock competition, with Lester and Dot Branham third.

Ed Burzler won the trophy for best decorated boat. “We followed the theme exactly,” he said, “and I think that’s why we won.” Burzler had a silhouette of a soldier and a young boy attached to the side of his boat decorated with American flags. He had three military veterans aboard. He’s had a third-place and three honorable mentions in past competitions. “There was a lot of thumbs up and saluting,” Burzler said. “The crowd was 99 percent respectful. Water balloons and hoses were kind of disruptive, but that’s the one percent.” Organizers had tried to discourage people on boats from shooting water at the crowd or throwing water balloons.

Carson Benton took second place with his boat “Freedom Arch” and Lindsay Antol was third. Pirate Adventures and Larry McCoy were presented honorable mentions.

Organizer Lee Hewitt said he was pleased at the turnout for the parade, held for the first time on a day other than July 4 in order to allow boats to get through the creeks on high tide. It was the first time in 33 years the parade was not held on the Fourth. “From what I saw,” Hewitt said, “the crowds were as big as ever. We had more boats registered than ever.”

Traffic was a madhouse in the inlet as time for the parade approached. Sheriff’s deputies blocked the entrance to the Murrells Inlet Boat Landing. Volunteers with Belin Memorial United Methodist Church stood at the gates of a grass field with big orange buckets collecting donations for parking. Cars lined the streets for blocks west of Business 17.

Duane St. Clair said it took 90 minutes for him and his wife to make the drive from their home in Socastee to the inlet. They found a place for their lawn chairs in the shade at the Belin church yard. “It’s nice to be able to have something for the people,” St. Clair said, “get them out in the fresh air.”

Amanda Guy from Knightdale, N.C., said this was her first boat parade. “Cool,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Hewitt said Saturday is usually one of the slower nights on the Marsh Walk during tourist season because vacationers are arriving or departing. David McMillan, co-owner of Drunken Jack’s, said the Marsh Walk restaurants had tried to get the word out to regular customers that the boat parade had been moved. “It’s been a long time since it has been that late in the afternoon,” McMillan said. “It will cycle like that because of the tides.”

He said the restaurants benefited from having the parade and fireworks show on different nights. “It worked out having it split,” he said. “Having the parade and the fireworks show in the same afternoon slows down two of your biggest turns. It was really good that it was split from that perspective. For us, it’s ideal when the parade is in the morning before lunch. Then it goes all day long.”

With the fireworks remaining on July 4, the Marsh Walk restaurants drew another big crowd Monday. “Huge,” McMillan said.

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