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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 12:23 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jan 01, 2005 5:45 pm
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Yesterday was the 4th of July, the very epicenter of summer. I know there are many of you who disagree with me but I believe this is the best week of the year to be in Myrtle Beach. There's a palpable energy in the air and the Strand never looks better or more inviting than when it's fully clothed in its patriotic Independence Day regalia.

In what has become a tradition for us, we drove down to Murrells Inlet for the 27th annual 4th of July Boat Parade, a slice of small town America if there ever was one. The start time of the parade varies each year based on the tide in the creek. I know others enjoy the 4:00 PM start time of years past but I prefer the 11:00 AM start because the weather is a bit more predictable, the morning lends itself to still having the entire day in front of you when the parade is over, and the early start allows people to get home for their family BBQs and other commitments.

I don't know what it is about this event that I find so appealing but I just love it. At its core it's just a bunch of boats floating through the creek, many not much more decorated than a few people standing on the bow waving an American flag. But it's really more than that. People are engaged in it. There's a sense that you're less a spectator than you are a participant, even if you're not part of the boat flotilla. It's true as much in practice as it is in theory as evidenced by one of the youngest parade 'marchers':

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 6/original

Of course there were far more spectators armed with super soakers this year to fire back at the boating instigators, so the odds more or less evened out even if this little man thought himself indestructable.

What makes this parade special is that spectators and participants are nearly indistinguishable. Friendly banter is constantly exchanged between those viewing and those parading. There's an air of community that completely permeates the event. There's no way to stand along the Marshwalk and not befriend the strangers standing beside you. For 90 minutes you're immersed in this event and you chat with your new friends as though this is something you've all been doing each year for the last decade. The parade is silly, it's slightly disorganized, it's spontaneous, and yet it's one of the most fun and socially enjoyable things you'll ever do.

Charlotte and I staked out a place just north of the Dead Dog Saloon. The family to our right was from Charleston, with the entire generational tree represented, from 6 year old son to 83 year old grandmother and everyone in between. They were just a joy to be around. On our left was an older gentleman from New Jersey who lives in Lakewood Campground and this was his first boat parade. He made mention that things were running late (an understatement; they were 30 minutes behind schedule). I told him the wait was like childbirth -- it's agony but when it's all over you completely forget about the pain. His comeback: "And it's probably a lot less messy."

For those of you who have never been, hopefully the following pictures will give you a taste of the small-town atmosphere of the Murrells Inlet Boat Parade.

The Marshwalk and surrounding piers were jammed with spectators. If you don't get there at least 30 minutes before the scheduled start, you're generally stuck behind a few rows of people. These were taken about 45 minutes before the parade began:

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 2/original
http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 8/original

The organizers played the Star Spangled Banner over loudspeakers in front of the Creek Ratz restaurant, while grandfathers batted the caps off adolescent boys during the anthem. It's fun to watch how boys and men teach/learn respect and social norms. The parade finally got underway with a Coast Guard boat, police boat, and a tour pontoon vessel packed with people.

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 9/original

What I love about the event is its simplicity and creativity, all without the trappings of commercial and corporate interference. Most of the participants are just families from the area. In fact it's an occasion for the entire family to ride together and make a memory that will last a lifetime:

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 7/original
http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 7/original

You can imagine the effort on the part of everyone the evening before or the morning of the parade to decorate their boat and come up with ideas for their little "parade float". It's also easy to imagine spectators from past years not being able to resist the urge to participate themselves, like these folks:

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 0/original

You can't have a respectable boat parade unless you have your quota of beauty queens and pageant winners:

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 3/original
http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 1/original
http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 3/original

Then you've got your NON-beauty queens:

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 1/original

Hey, it's America. It's a free country. Why shouldn't the couch-potato demographic be represented? You don't see THAT in Pasadena.

There are so many great efforts for theme designs, from boats with hats:

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 0/original

To boats with themed American icons:

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 5/original

To boats with dog mascots:

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 2/original

To boats that hew closely to the stated theme for the year, in this case "Inlet Freedom, Inlet Spirit":

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 5/original

To boats plastered with the red, white and blue:

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 4/original

Then there are those who couldn't care less about themes and just go for the joy and thrill of expressing their own originality and personality, like this family:

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 8/original

Then we have this woman who's apparently making a statement about drinking binges and how big your head feels the morning after. A parade with public service announcements. You gotta love it:

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 6/original

Of course you DO have the retail side of things but it's less about big corporate America than it is about downtown Murrells Inlet or Garden City. Whether it's Creek Ratz restaurant, the local drugstore, or the planned community in the next village over, the event never seems to lose touch with its humble and small town vibrancy.

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 7/original
http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 1/original
http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 9/original
http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 2/original

Despite its charming, vintage Americana feel, there's a pageantry captured in it all. There really is. You don't always sense it when you're there caught up in the moment, with frisbees flying through the air flung by an accountant in one boat, water balloons splattering nearby from the plumber on a jet ski, or Mardi Gras beads whacking you off your head hurled by your friendly neighborhood Kroger meat-cutter in a high performance Bayliner. If you can step outside yourself in the moment and look around at the bigger picture, you'll see more than the azure blue skies, the sun-splashed marsh, and the waterfront village of a beautiful American seaside town. What you'll *really* see is the unmatchable pageantry of thousands of people, young and old, who gather as individuals but come together as a collective America to celebrate freedom disguised as a just-barely-organized and completely home-grown civic celebration. It's an incredibly beautiful thing.

http://www.pbase.com/traderboynh/image/ ... 3/original

I believe our founding fathers would be justifiably proud -- while probably asking themselves, "What's a 'Batman'?"


Last edited by traderboynh on Mon Jul 23, 2007 8:39 am, edited 1 time in total.

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