In the 1950s, Myrtle Beach was not as booming the first week of June as it is today.
Many families didn’t bags right as school got out to head to the Grand Strand for summer vacation.
Thus, the Sun Fun Festival was born.
“They wanted a way to kick off the summer, and get people down here a little earlier,” said Buz Plyler, owner of the Gay Dolphin and son of festival founder Justin W. Plyler. “All winter there’d be nothing and all of a sudden there were people all over the place.”
The festival was founded by area business owners in conjunction with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. Mark Garner and Justin W. Plyler were very instrumental in making the festival a reality.
The first year of the event was 1951 and did not have a name. June Truluck won $25 for coming up with the name “Sun Fun” in 1952.
The early days of the festival included beauty contests, watermelon seed spitting contests, an ice sitting contest, a Jello jump, diaper derby and a “jail” where you’d get sent if you didn’t wear shorts.
“It was a bigger deal to wear shorts back in those days,” Plyler said.
On May 31 and June 1-2, The Gay Dolphin Gift Cove is bringing it back to where it all began, in downtown Myrtle Beach, as the nostalgic Sun Fun Festival returns for its fourth year after taking a hiatus from 2011-2015.
This year’s event will feature three days of entertainment.
The free event kicks off on Friday night in Plyler Park (next to the famous Myrtle Beach SkyWheel) at 6 p.m. with free games and activities for all ages, costumed characters, face painters, stilt walkers, and fun with DJ Matt.
The weekend will feature concerts, carnival games, vendors, “Sun Fun Jail,” fireworks, a parade and more.
The Gay Dolphin will have family-friendly games set up all weekend.
This year’s jail is more for photo ops, with squishy handcuffs available for silly poses.
“People like to wear shorts now,” Kerscher said.
Don't miss the favorite, the Sun Fun parade, which will run down Ocean Boulevard on Saturday at 10 a.m. Ed Piotrowski, a beloved meteorologist with WPDE ABC15, will be the grand marshal this year.
The parade is staged by the Lions Club, who assisted with the event for several years.
“It wouldn’t happen without them,” said Michelle Kerscher, Gay Dolphin office manager and event organizer.
Several nonprofits are involved with the event.
The Golden Knights U.S. Army Parachute Team, a staple of the festival’s early years, returns with multiple performances throughout the weekend, including an evening pyro jump on Friday.
“Everyone thinks it’s a meteor shower,” Kerscher said. “They start out in a ball, light their flares and then spread apart.”
The weekend will be filled with live music from local favorites and Sun Fun staples.
Friday will feature music from Swingin’ Medallions, a Greenwood, SC, group who performed frequently in Pawleys Island in the 1960s.
“They were a part of the original Sun Fun,” Kerscher said.
New this year is a kite demonstration by Klig’s Kites, taking place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, following the Sun Fun Parade.
Saturday night will include entertainment by Too Much Sylvia.
“They’re a good party band,” Kerscher said, with a set including Frankie Valli hits and beach music perfect to shag to.
The weekend will also feature an oceanfront fireworks show at 10 p.m. Saturday. The show can be seen all along the Boardwalk & Promenade from downtown.
Sunday night will feature live music from A1A, the “Official and Original Jimmy Buffett Tribute Show.” A1A is a new addition to Sun Fun but one that is surely going to get everyone in a carefree, laid back summer mood.
Plyler is very excited about the return of the festival as it has been a tradition for vacationers for many years.
“They want to pass that on to their kids,” he said. ‘They’re wanting that nostalgic event. It’s sentimental. It’s very good to have that same feel we once had. It was a time the whole community came together to enjoy the events. They tried to make it a success.”
For more details, go to www.SunFunMB.com.