What happened to Myrtle Beach’s Gay Pride celebration?

For Weekly SurgeJune 3, 2014 

Well, it’s Gay Pride Month all over America but much like classes on evolution and progressive Christianity, it seems to be skipping Myrtle Beach again. It appears we haven’t had an event here since 2010 when it was hailed as a great success, according to www.myrtlebeachpride.com. My esteemed historians tell me that in 2011, the Pride Festival lost both its organizer, the Center Project, and its fiscal sponsor, the Horry County Arts and Cultural Council. I wonder if there could possibly be a correlation between failing arts community and a defunct Gay Pride Movement?

But then again, aren’t we getting a new $10 million Performing Arts Center? At least 54 of Myrtle Beach voters seem to think this is a great idea. Unless the Performing Arts Center is only going to be used for Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute bands and Kirk Cameron tent revivals, I’m missing the point. There definitely seems to be funding in Myrtle Beach for projects that generate revenue. I wonder if anyone has explained to the local gentry that gay people really like to spend money?

We recently survived another round of Bike Weeks in Myrtle Beach. Of course, when I say “we” I’m excluding the three people who were murdered as well as the victims of sexual assault, armed robbery, carjacking and other random acts of violence. What’s the harm of a few bullets over Broadway at the Beach if the tourist dollars are still rolling in, right?

I’m not calling for an end to Bike Week of any stripe. That would put me in the same category as Gov. Nikki Haley and personally, sharing a viewpoint with her would be the first indicator that I need to look into a long-term care facility that specializes in cognitive disorders. I’m also not willing to dub Myrtle Beach “Murder Beach” as other people in the news have. If you put an extra 300,000 people who are focused on partying in one area for a very limited period of time, shit happens.

As far as a Pride Celebration goes, I would venture to say the crowd would be considerably smaller and the violence would not be as grave. The Queen City (Charlotte, N.C.) to our north only pulls in about 75,000 for its pride festivities and for the most part, the disruptions are limited to the insignificant street preachers who tend to show up to scream misinterpreted Bible verses at the participants. This doesn’t always work out so well for them because, with so many equality victories under our belts, LGBTQ people now tend to shout back. Besides, even if we get out of control, the worst thing we are likely to do is go rearrange the furniture in the hotel lobby.

Don’t laugh. It’s happened before. I also rearranged the seating groups in my dentist’s office. You’re welcome.

So why, with an estimated 14 million visitors every year, can we not get the proper involvement, endorsement and sponsorship for a legitimate Pride Celebration? Back in 2011, Chris Stephens was heading the event when the sponsorship completely disappeared. He was the driving force behind bringing Pride back in 2008 after a ten year absence. That’s disturbing. This trend of ten years with no Pride Celebration and then three years with a Pride Celebration is not representative of a major resort city. Leaders like Stephens cannot be expected to do everything.

Pride is not simply an elaborate celebration punctuated by bar-hopping, beach parties and a parade. Pride is a rite of passage. It is typically the first affirmation that a young LGBTQ person receives to let that person know that there is a community that will offer support and embrace him/her throughout their journey. It is indeed, a celebration of hope.

For me that rite of passage was more years ago that I will admit to. As a senior in high school, a local little theater director took us to the infamous Scorpio in Charlotte where I saw the even more infamous Boom Boom La’ Tour perform a magically riveting rendition of “Bette Davis Eyes.” At that moment, I knew that there was something right in the world.

My old boss was a total douche who was overflowing with platitudes, so I find it unsettling that I have to use one of his favorite responses when faced with a problem: “Find a way to get it done.” That’s what we need to do in Myrtle Beach. I know from attending the First Friday Happy Hour events and the holiday parties that there are some very well-connected people in the LGBTQ community here. It’s time to network and represent the hope and determination that have helped all of us to make it this far. We have a debt to repay to the community.

Starting now, it’s time to connect to anyone we can think of to make Pride Celebration 2015 a reality. I have attempted to contact the people at www.gaymyrtlebeach.com and www.myrtlebeachpride.com to get people involved. Call in favors, make deals and utilize the guilt that we are all so familiar with to get sponsors and organizers on board. We need to hand off a better LGBTQ community to the next generation than we currently have. You know where to find me if you need me.

Out & About

Friday, June 6 - First Friday Happy Hour, the Takeover Grand Strand Event will meet at the Courtyard by Marriott Myrtle Beach Broadway from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. The location is 1351 21st Avenue N., Myrtle Beach. For additional information please visit www.firstfridayhappyhour.org.

Wednesday, June 11 – Prime Timers of Myrtle Beach will host its monthly Dinner Out event at 6:30 p.m. The location was not confirmed at press time but it will be posted on the group’s Web site: http://www.primetimersww.com/primetimersmb

Thursday, June 12 – Pulse Ultra Club will host a preview of its new location in Myrtle Beach. This will mark the move from the current downtown spot to the newly-renovated building at 2701 S. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach. For additional information, see www.facebook.com/PulseUltraClub.

Friday, June 20 – Takeover Florence, the Pee Dee LGBTQ Happy Hour event, will celebrate Pride Month by attending the Indigo Girls in concert at Francis Marion University’s Performing Arts Center at 7:30 pm. Tickets start at $69 and are still available. For details and seating information, see the Facebook page for Takeover Florence for additional details: www.facebook.com/TakeoverFlorence.

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