Experience Small Town Fun at Socastee Heritage Festival

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Millions of vacationers visit Myrtle Beach, South Carolina each year for the beach, attractions, shopping, dining and entertainment in The Sun Fun Capital. But if that's all you see and do during your Grand Strand getaway, you are missing out on the many surrounding communities with their own distinctive vibes.

Myrtle Beach may get the spotlight, but there are neighboring towns that offer a diverse vacation experience, including festivals highlighting the character of the community. One of those hidden gems is Socastee (pronounced sock-a-stee), which is southwest of Myrtle Beach at the junction of Highways 544 and 707.

Located on the south end of Myrtle Beach's famed Ocean Boulevard strip, Compass Cove Oceanfront Resort is close to all the downtown attractions but also only a short distance to Socastee. Guests can make plans to attend the Ninth Annual Socastee Heritage Festival on the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Held Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Socastee Heritage Festival highlights the little known history of the community, dating back to the original inhabitants, the Waccamaw Indians, and the early settlers who harvested timber for ship-building and turpentine as early as its founding in 1711. Today's residents are a combination of longtime locals and transplants from all over the country, and they come together at the Socastee Swing Bridge to celebrate what makes their town great.

For one day in April, the bridge is closed to vehicle traffic and open for yachts to sail down the Intracoastal Waterway. There are two concert stages are spread throughout the venue to provide non-stop entertainment. The full list of bands and other performers, including community-based groups and youth organizations, put on a big show each year. This year's lineup is expected to be released later this spring.

But the biggest draw to the Socastee Heritage Festival might be the food. Featuring fresh seafood and Southern-style barbecue, the festival offers something for everyone, including the basic burger and pizza for the pickier eaters in your party. Visitors can sit at picnic tables on the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway and watch boats sail past, catch a concert or performance on the outdoor stages, and burn off some energy on the bounce house and inflatable rides. Patrons can also rent jet skis, kayaks and other water craft to enjoy the show from the Intracoastal Waterway.

For those who prefer the less adventurous sport of shopping, you have come to the right place. Rows and rows of vendor booths and sponsor tents line the street and parking areas so patrons can browse for hours. Arts and crafts vendors shop their wares and souvenir booths offer commemorative T-shirts and hats from the event. There are also lots of activities for kids, including a rock-climbing wall, face-painting and games. Stroll around the festival grounds and enjoy the sounds, sights and fellowship of the small town of Socastee.

Admission is $5 and all proceeds go toward Socastee-based projects. Over the first eight years of the event, the Socastee Heritage Festival has built two special-needs playgrounds at local elementary schools, purchased and preserved the Sarvis House, a local historic home to convert into a community museum that is free and open to the public, and awarded more than $10,000 in grants to local community children and schools. That's not to mention bringing the community together for a great time.

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