Locals and visitors clustered at the shore Monday for a two-fold Independence Day celebration that included a pride march by veterans and salute from the shore, the annual coastal flyover.
North Myrtle Beach’s eighth annual pride march had veterans carrying the American flag, the flag of South Carolina and a banner in honor of prisoners of war and the missing in action. Participants started from opposite ends of the beach, eight miles apart in all, and handed off the flags at various points as they slowly marched towards each other. Eventually, they met at the beach entrance next to the Horseshoe at Main Street.
Onlookers clapped and cheered on the veterans as they passed.
Salute from the shore, another annual event in which vintage warplanes fly over the South Carolina shore from the north end of the Grand Strand to Charleston, was subdued this year, as only three of the eight vintage planes were in working order and able to fly. However, in a new twist, the procession of planes was led by a C-17, a larger and newer aircraft.
Beachgoers spread out across the sand, choosing to play in the water or have picnics as they waited for festivities to begin.
Ron Turnage, from Rockingham, N.C., said he has been coming to the Grand Strand for 15 years. He was standing in front of long row of covered tables, and next to his area flew several flags, including the American banner, a POW-MIA flag, emblems for both the University of North Carolina and the University of South Carolina and the Confederate battle flag.
“We have a private party here every year and serve homemade hickory-smoked barbecue and all the works,” Turnage said.
Many tried to stay cool as the area was placed under a heat advisory until 7 p.m. Tuesday. While high winds offered some relief close to shore, temperatures in the high 90s and high humidity made it feel as hot at 108 degrees in North Myrtle Beach, according to the National Weather Service. Rough surf also created a moderate risk for rip currents.
Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach were placed under heat advisories until 7 p.m. Tuesday, and some areas felt as hot as 108 degrees.
Many stayed out of the water altogether, choosing to stroll along the beach as they waited for the procession.
One man, who would only identify himself as “Chris,” from Little River, sported an oversized foam cowboy hat with miniature American flags perched inside. He said he wears the hat every year.
“Happy birthday America,” he said, “and go Chanticleers!”
Happy birthday America, and go Chanticleers!
Chris, from Little River
Kendall Romaine from Marlboro, North Carolina said his family used to host cookouts back home, but that they recently bought a condo in the area.
“We can hang out, chill out, see the flyover, see some fireworks,” he said.
Romaine also said Independence Day was important to him as a launching point for the modern American way of life.
“I see the Fourth (of July) as the beginning of America, and the beginning of the American attitude, saying how we’re independent, and we can do things by ourselves and we can get things done no matter what.”
He added, “It created the American identity.”
When the color guard of veterans eventually reached the Horseshoe, they transferred the flags to three members of the U.S. Air Force, who presented the American flag and raised it on a flagpole as the festivities drew to a close.
“I was out here about to cry but I couldn’t,” said one of the Air Force members charged with raising the flag. She identified herself as Airman 1st Class Hickman. “I had to stand tall.”
She added, “I love it. It just gets me every time.”
As Hickman helped hoist the flag, the crowd looked on in silent respect. Then, when the wind caught the banner and it billowed out to its full length, one man yelled, “Fly, baby, fly!” The audience burst into applause and cheers.