The Carolina Country Music Festival lived up to LouAnn Williamson’s expectations.
“It is amazing,” the Youngstown, Ohio, woman said. “I’ve been to hundreds of concerts, but this one really is better than them all.”
Williamson’s praise was a common refrain throughout the four-day festival, which brought more than 30,000 people to downtown Myrtle Beach.
Crowds packed the former Pavilion Amusement Park lot and spread out an entire block of Ocean Boulevard. The event hosted some of the biggest names in country music that drew fans from near and far. Williamson was excited to watch the headliners for Friday and Saturday.
For Williamson, the concert was personal.
“My husband passed away recently and he actually left it in his will for me to go to this festival because we both loved country music,” he said. “He loved Darius Rucker and I loved Kenney Chesney, so I’m kind of torn who’s performance I loved the most, but Darius did touch my hand, so that was amazing.”
Logan Founders came for one performer.
“Darius Rucker is the man,” the Myrtle Beach fan said. “He’s a South Carolina boy. I’ve come to this show every year and I’ve wanted Darius to be here every year. He’s so much fun and he has a great stage presence.”
Mark Stanley of Conway also wanted to see Rucker.
“He is just awesome,” he said. “I saw him when he came to Coastal and I wasn’t going to miss this show either. He is so awesome and his music is so much like South Carolina. Now my wife is more excited for Kenney Chesney though.”
Alyssa Wright from Lansing, Michigan, got to the venue at 11 a.m. on Saturday to stand in line for the perfect seat. She was there to see Billy Currington.
“I love Billy,” she said. “I love his songs. They are almost like stories, and he’s so handsome.”
No one complained about the prices, from the $15 chicken on a stick to the $8 beers, but the summer heat did bother some folks.
“It’s just hot, especially because none of the tickets are ‘reserved.’ Even the Super VIP is still standing room only, so if you aren’t there to get you a good spot, you won’t have one,” said Teresa Johnson of New Haven, Connecticut. “I’m not complaining because the concert, the whole festival has been great, but when you pay thousands of dollars, it’s hard to stand outside in the heat all day long, just to see your favorite artists sing.”
Some attendees had to be transported by ambulance for heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke.
Williamson said Saturday was the worst day for the heat. She saw five people taken away in ambulances. “People just didn’t want to lose their spots and they would’ve rather passed out than got up to go get something to drink,” she said. “One of the main problems is that if you were in the VIP section, you had to walk through two gated areas to get somewhere to buy something besides alcohol, which was quite a long ways, especially when the people were packed in tight.” Williamson bought drinks as soon as she got inside the festival and a bag of ice to keep with her.
“I hope next year they think more about people’s health,” she said. “This is a lot of people’s first concert and with it being June it’s hot outside and like me a lot of people really didn’t leave their spots for eight or 10 hours.”
While there were plenty of South Carolinians in attendance, people from all across the country enjoyed themselves.
“I’ve come every year with a few of my girlfriends and we are from Indiana,” Trish Miller said. “This is the whole reason we come down here.”