MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Oktoberfest, Hot Summer Nights, St Patrick's Day at the Boardwalk, these are all events that wouldn't be possible without the Oceanfront Merchants Association and now the group has a new executive director who says, seeing more of these events, is one of her many goals.
Peggy Iverson is the brand new executive director of the Oceanfront Merchants' Association, also known as OMA. She's only been in her role for a week, but she's already making plans to get downtown pumping again.
OMA started a little over a decade ago and now has over 140 members. The grassroots organization is dedicated to promoting and growing interest downtown, through businesses and events. Volunteers help make this all possible.
Iverson lived in Myrtle Beach in the 1980s, worked for an oceanfront resort and a boardwalk business, and even owned her own business in North Carolina. She has a background in both sales and marketing.
“I believe it's vital to provide value to our visitors as well as our local people, like I said, its year round, its a year round effort,” said Iverson.
As events grow, like Oktoberfest - these business leaders know they need more hands on deck. So a main goal for the next year is trying to guarantee a steady source of income.
Each year the DRC gives merchants money to help pay for events - like Oktoberfest. This year, $90,000 got cut from the budget. This takes away from promoting and hosting the events. While it didn't stop big events like Oktoberfest from happening, it very well could have.
Currently OMA gets money from the city's accommodations tax, sponsorship and membership fees. Since money from the city isn't a guarantee, Iverson is spinning her wheels to come up with another source of income. That's one of at least 5 goals, she discussed, to help get downtown Myrtle Beach flourishing again.
Safety during special events, and growing year round festivities are just two of the goals.
She talked about beautification projects, and working to get businesses and schools together to help to change storefronts and landscaping.
“I urge merchants down here in this area to really take a look at the aesthetics of their buildings, look at their windows, so they can see what as a visitor is going to look at as they walk by,” said Iverson. “I would love to get everybody to step up to get to that level where they can be proud of their building.”
She also wants to find ways to boost marketing and funding. The internet will make a difference in promoting events. The website got about 24,000 hits in August, and she wants to boost that number.
Iverson says, she wants to bring that family friendly crowd she saw in the 80's back to ocean boulevard.
“They were staying all over the Grand Strand but they would drive to the downtown area and make this one of their must to destinations while they're here on vacation because of all the free entertainment and things they can do around here,” she said.
She wants to build events using our strengths. Since we're known for shagging she's looking into hosting an event called - The Glory Days - featuring shag contests, and classic cars.
The first event Iverson will oversee is Holiday's at the Boardwalk, taking place every Saturday after Thanksgiving. This includes the polar express train on the boardwalk, skywheel christmas light show and free hot chocolate and cookies. The organization needs schools and church choirs to volunteer to perform on stage. You can email email@example.com, to sign up.