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The History of a Myrtle Beach New Year's Eve Tradition

  By  Kathryn Hedgepath

The History of a Myrtle Beach New Year's Eve Tradition

The Remarkable Story of how A Southern Times Square Came To Be

Ever since December 31st, 2013, Myrtle Beach residents and visitors have gathered to bring in the new year at The Market Common.  As many as 10,000 revelers at a time have enjoyed the live music, food vendors and fun.  The celebration is called A Southern Times Square and it truly is a scaled-down version of the festivities going on simultaneously in New York which can also be watched during our local event as it is streamed on a big outdoor screen. 

What quickly became a large, impressive, annual tradition had quite a remarkable beginning.  I say that, because I was there.  In December of 2013, I was about midway through a six-month temporary assignment working for The Market Common’s management office.  The company was going through a transition at that time that required an exponential amount of paperwork to be generated by the then General Manager.  I was brought in to alleviate the daily workload.

That situation also took the GM away from spending time with the tenants, the owners and managers who ran the restaurants, stores and entertainment venues that make The Market Common the premiere destination that it is.  She asked me if I knew of anyone who would like a part-time position who would be qualified to be a tenant liaison for her.  I knew just the person, Jan Connell.

I had met Jan ten years before when my then fiancé introduced me to her.  He had been a good friend to both Jan and her late husband.  They were both quite fond of my future spouse.  In fact, I wouldn’t say that my first encounter with Jan was a conventional introduction.  A more apt description of that night would be that I was taken to Jan’s home and presented to her.  It was her mission that evening to size me up and determine if I was worthy of marrying her beloved friend.  Well I passed.  In fact, I did such a good job that when we left her new concern was if he was worthy of marrying me (He totally was and still is…).

When I reached out to Jan in the Autumn of 2013, she was a few months deep into her new retirement.  She had had a stellar run creating memorable events at Ripley’s Aquarium at Broadway at the Beach and ended her career on a high note. Little did she know just how memorable her work during “retirement” was going to become.  She was in the market for a part-time job to earn a little fun money with which to spoil her grandchildren.  When I made the suggestion to her for the tenant liaison position, she genuinely asked me if I was kidding. 

She just thought that that would be the perfect thing for her.  And it was.  Jan is one of those delightful people with a quick wit that will leave you in stitches.  She could light up any room.  And soon, unbeknownst to any of us, she was going to light up The Market Common on New Year’s Eve.

The idea was first introduced by that General Manager at the beginning of December (2013) that maybe we should have a New Year’s event that could be put together in four weeks.  Another local attraction was advertising their outdoor event for the 31st that guests could buy tickets to.  And the City of Myrtle Beach had announced their tentative plans to hold a celebration downtown. 

It was discussed at the weekly staff meeting, and ultimately, the GM thought better of trying to pull off something that big in that little time.  As the days moved ever closer to Christmas, we heard that the City had decided not to hold the event after all.  You would think that would confirm that our not attempting such an undertaking was a wise decision.  But I believe that it had just the opposite effect.  TWO WEEKS before New Year’s Eve, the General Manager declares that we are going to hold a New Year’s Eve event.

Let me put this in perspective for you.  The management team at The Market Common at that time was made up of the GM (who was so taken up with that special administrative project that I had been brought in to help), the apartment leasing manager, the accountant, the receptionist and Jan (part-time).  In addition, there is a third-party company that handles the operations who oversees maintenance, the Property Ambassadors, and the like.  That team is run by the phenomenal Jack Briscoe who has continually been at The Market Common longer than anyone else.

This was a good team, but a small one, with only a fortnight to pull off what would soon become the beginning of one of Myrtle Beach’s most high-profile holiday traditions.  It would take someone with superhero qualities and tools to pull it off.  Thor has his hammer and Wonder Woman has her lasso.  We had Jan and her Rolodex!

For those of you who keep all of your contact information on something that has a screen and have never heard of a Rolodex, let me describe it for you.  It is a small filing system with each file card barely larger than a business card.  In fact, sometimes a business card is just stapled to the file card as opposed to having the pertinent information transcribed on it.  The beauty of the Rolodex is that cards are attached to a rotating spindle of sorts so that little space on your desk is taken up.  Using the knobs on each side, you can just roll to the alphabetized file card that you need.  The name itself is derived from the words rolling and index.  Invented in 1956 and first marketed two years later, you can still buy them today.

Jan’s was impressive.  It was filled with a myriad of contacts for vendors, music and basically everything you would need for New Year’s Eve.  Keep in mind, she only had two weeks’ notice, so she had to dig deep to find all of those contributors who weren’t already booked for the 31st.  But she pulled it off and how.  It was she who came up with the name A Southern Times Square

When the day finally arrived, everything was put into place by the small but formidable team.  The City of Myrtle Beach got behind it with last minute permitting and first-responder assistance in case it was needed.  A contractor set up a stage in the street for the live music.  Vendors were at the ready and the guests began to arrive by the dozens, then the hundreds.  As the night went on, the attendance broke 1000.

Meanwhile, across town at that other outdoor celebration for which their guests had purchased tickets, something completely unexpected happened.  At 11 PM, the party stopped.  I don’t know the actual reason for it, but the event was set to end at that time. 

Most of the guests didn’t realize that and were rather upset to suddenly comprehend that the best part of the night wasn’t scheduled to happen.  But that was that.  The lights went out and the contractor who set up their stage began disassembling it. 

That’s probably the moment those in disbelief realized that the party was really over.  Some wanted to take matters into their own hands, but there was no one apparent to ask or complain to so they asked the guys taking down the stage.  Those workers told them that they were scheduled to show up at 11 PM to break it down…but they weren’t supposed to take down the stage at The Market Common until 1 AM.

"The Market what!?" (my guess at what a probable response was)… those contract workers told the stunned partygoers that there was a big, free party going on right down the road and told them how to get there. Some had never heard of it.  Word traveled fast. And at midnight there were FIVE THOUSAND people at The Market Common watching the ball drop. 

Oh, and that ball, that is a story unto itself.  It was a huge disco ball suspended from a crane operated by Jack Briscoe. The ball, crated and nearly forgotten, had been rescued from the former Hard Rock Park from across the Intracoastal Waterway.  That was thanks to either someone Jack knew or perhaps it was somebody in Jan’s Rolodex.

Kathryn Hedgepath

Myrtle Beach native, Kathryn Hedgepath, loves to share her hometown’s history with visitors and newcomers to the Grand Strand.  She is the creator and narrator of the Myrtle Beach History Trolley and Step-On Tours, and the author of the book, Myrtle Beach Movies, that tells the stories behind the motion pictures that were made or premiered in Myrtle Beach.  She has traveled in 40 countries on 6 continents and uses her experience to convey our local history through a world lens. Kathryn returned home from NYC in 2002 to marry her beloved husband, Jenks, after a career in television and publishing (and even worked in Space Shuttle Operations at NASA Headquarters in DC for a semester before starting grad school at Georgetown University).  Her first career job was as Personal Assistant to television icon and wildlife expert, Jim Fowler, of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom fame. Her dad, Myrtle Beach’s first veterinarian, arranged the job interview when Jim Fowler came to Myrtle Beach for a speaking appearance at a veterinary conference in 1991.