As “Rocky Top“ played from The Bowery, festival goers lined 9th Avenue North anxiously waiting to make their way inside to the Carolina Country Music Festival in Myrtle Beach.
CCMF, which was postponed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, officially opened Thursday night and headliners Jake Owen, Luke Combs, Eric Church and Darius Rucker are set to take the stage throughout the festival.
Some folks were taking in all the sights and sounds of the festival, moseying in and out of bars, restaurants and shops. Other outside spectators, like Michael Hawk, reveled in the return of the event, cheering artists on from afar. Hawk stationed himself near the corner of Chester Street and 9th Avenue North and was wildly flinging his shirt around screaming “This is my song” while a somber country tune played in the distance.
Others, like Karen Kennedy and Nancy Pisano, were watching the festival from afar on their third floor hotel balcony at the Midtown on 8th Avenue North.
Kennedy and Pisano are part of a group that has booked a hotel room overlooking the festival for the past three years.
Kennedy, from Calabash, North Carolina, made a promise with her friends to stick around town the entire festival rather than make the trip back and forth across the border.
“We said that if we ever came down to see all the performers, we would stay,” Kennedy said. “We want to drink and have fun.”
Pisano said it was a girls weekend.
While the group has gone into the festival in years past, they have noticed some differences and benefits from watching from afar to being right in the action.
“There’s a lot more people and it’s more interactive when you’re down there,” Kennedy said. “We’ve made a lot of friends that stay at Midtown and that come back year after year. So we’ve made lots of friends here, too. I think it’s the atmosphere.”
Kennedy added that staying at the Midtown makes you “feel like family.“
Maryland native Christine Miller prefers the view from afar given the times.
“With COVID, I think we’re better off out here,” she said.
While the group has gone into the festival before, Pisano felt that it would just be “easier“ for her to enjoy it on the balcony of the Midtown.
“You see it just as well from up here,” Pisano said. “It gets kind of crowded down there. We have gone before. We had tickets for the whole thing but we only just went one day. Might as well just stay out here.”