MURRELLS INLET, SC (WMBF) - Thousands of people gathered on the Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk Saturday morning for the 18th annual Blessing of the Inlet.
The blessing began in 1997 with a small Sunday school class and an idea to raise a small amount of money for charity. Since then, the gathering has grown, along with the amount of money raised.
There are around 31 non-profits, 93 crafters, 12 local restaurants, 18 other food vendors, and a dozen events for children.
Willie Lee, founder and chairman of the Blessing of the Inlet committee, has watched this event blossom.
He says, "Who would have thought 18 years ago that five people in a Sunday school class with an idea to raise a little bit of money to give away with a few crafters in Murrells Inlet would have created thousands to coming?"
Willie says when the blessing first began, the restaurants were in a bit of a recession.
Myrtle Beach had a lot of activity going on, but Murrels Inlet? Not so much.
The Belin United Methodist Church was looking for a blessing, and feels they have received that.
Now, the annual event that happens the first Saturday of May continues to ask a blessing for the community, its waters, and its people to help the local economy flourish.
"People here see all the restaurants, and you know, all the different businesses, so it helps promote those, as well as bringing a sense of community to this area." says Chris Dumas, Grand Strand Area coordinator for Grateful Goldens Rescue.
Organizers say the blessing is the anchor festival of Murrells Inlet, bringing close to 10,000 people to the Marsh Walk.