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Pawleys Island: Parade draws former spectators onto floats
By Charles Swenson
They were neither red nor blue; just red, white and blue on Pawleys Island for the 51st Fourth of July parade. And when President Donald Trump showed up, he got a trophy and a can of beer. “It was huge,” he said, referring to the trophy.
Miss South Carolina also got a trophy. Suzi Roberts rode in her father Gary’s Corvette to show the hometown crowd the crown she received just a week earlier. Mayor Bill Otis said he hoped she would return as Miss America next year.
There were 48 floats in the parade, down by about 10 from last year’s golden anniversary. “With a 70 percent chance of rain, I’m surprised we had 48,” Otis said.
These were no sunshine patriots. Many said they had been watching from the sidelines for years and finally decided to jump in. In fact, one group made that their theme. The Pawleys Island Procrastination Squad included family members from Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Texas. “We’ve been coming to Pawleys for years,” said Todd Hervey, one of the Virginians. This was their first time in the parade. “We never got around to it.”
They had a blueprint for a dinosaur with an Uncle Sam hat launching a giant rocket. They had a color drawing of the finished product. And as they rode the island on a trailer behind a Ford pickup, they built the display on a frame of two-by-fours and chicken wire.
Hervey said they had been working on it since last week. Someone corrected him: “Since last night.” The float won Most Original.
The Morgan family has been coming to the island for 35 years. They founded the Pawleys Island Cabana Club in 1982 and wore the T-shirts to prove it. They usually build a tiki hut on the beach. This year they built it on a trailer and joined the parade. They were the first ones lined up on the South Causeway. “We were afraid we’d be stuck at the back,” Morgan Vickery said.
Their float won an Honorable Mention.
Ron and Tricia Coulson are parade veterans, but only of the DeBordieu parade. But they live just off the South Causeway. “We always kept saying, ‘Let’s do Pawleys,’ ” Ron said.
“It was my crazy idea,” said Tricia. She recruited the neighbors and they converted the Coulsons’ Sea Fox into the Black Pearl. She converted Ron into Jack Sparrow, captain of the P.I. Rats.
Although the Coulsons are originally from England, the Fourth of July has been special to them for the last 58 years. It’s their wedding day. This year they celebrated with a trophy.
Chad and Rebecca Lyons of Fuquay-Varina, N.C., and their four children were also among the first timers. They watched the parade last year with their aunt and uncle, Eric and Nancy Braman of Pawleys Plantation. They planned a float for this year. Nancy’s death earlier this year resolved them to carry on in her memory. It was Eric’s idea to do a 1776 theme.
Their oldest son played the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “America the Beautiful” on a keyboard. Two other boys dressed as soldiers and their daughter, dressed as Betsy Ross, sat under a log shelter on the back of a Dodge pickup. They won the trophy for Most Patriotic.
“I know Nancy was smiling,” Rebecca Lyons said. “We want to make this a tradition. We love it down here.”
The Wissing family are also long-time visitors. “All the dads came as kids,” said Laura Wissing. They’ve watched the parade, but never entered.
“I wondered if you could be in the parade,” Wissing said. She did some research from her home in Louisville, Ky., and bought some decorations for their Ford pickup. Out of 11 kids staying in their beach house, nine piled in the back. That was enough for judges, who gave them the trophy for Best Kids.
“The children were the hardest,” said Darlene Adams, one of the judges and a former participant with the Transplant Garden Club.
The choice was so difficult that they let the Wissings drive past the old Town Hall at the end of the parade with their trophy still on a folding table. “We got a call and came back to get the trophy,” Wissing said.
The Guess family are not only long-time visitors, but long time participants, which they demonstrated with sashes marking their years in the parade. “Somebody said we never get older,” Vicky Guess McDonald said. And she didn’t disagree. They never get quieter, either. They won the award for Most Enthusiastic. “No one would have guessed that they would have got the award for enthusiasm,” Otis said.
Will Ness won the trophy for Best Musical. The singer-songwriter from Georgetown paused to give a brief acceptance speech at Town Hall. “We almost didn’t make it due to a power issue,” he said. “Thank you, Pawleys Island.”
Best Overall was Winyah Baywatch, a movie tie-in created by the DeChamps, deHaas, Jackson, Sarvis and Visbaras families. The humor trophy went to Starfish Coffee, which served up frothy “Crabuccinos” and “Sea Tea.”
Other Honorable Mentions went to the kayaking mermaid Amelia Thompson and a group from Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic (SODA); the Willcox, Dotterer and Scott families for their Trump float; and Earle and Linda Furman of Greenville who decorated themselves and their golf cart as the Grey Man. It was their first time in the parade in about 20 years, Linda said. Since it was Earle’s 70th birthday, he got to play the Gray Man.
Jimmy McCants also made his return to the parade after some 20 years. The last time he rode in a float with his grandchildren. This year he rode in a BWM convertible as the grand marshal. McCants chairs the town Planning Commission. “He’s done tons and tons of work for this island,” said Jimmy Braswell, a fellow commission member, who drove.
“You’ve got to have a strong feeling for Pawleys,” McCants said. “I love this island.”
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