MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - We may still be a few day's out from Saint Patrick's Day... but celebrations start today in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee.
The Oceanfront Merchant Association is hosting their Myrtle Beach Saint Patrick's Day celebration. It still has plenty of setting up to do, with all the vendors, a beer tent and a stage that will go up.
For the first time ever, it's now a two-day festival. That means bring your green ponchos, just in case!
All the fun starts Saturday, and lasts through Sunday. There will be food vendors, arts and crafts, and a kid's zone area with bouncy houses, camel rides, pony rides and games.
A carnival company is coming in to put in carnival rides suited for both kids and adults. Then on the oceanfront side, there will be a beer garden, food vendors, and a stage for the bands.
Ocean Boulevard will be blocked off all the way from eight Avenue North to mister Joe White Avenue.
So why all the fuss to add a second day of celebrations? Leaders tell say there's plenty of demand for it: they're expecting 20,000 people this year.
"One of the reasons is because we've had so many bands that have tried getting in the lineup for the Saturday event," explains Peggy Iverson, OMA Executive Director. "So what we did was we rolled a lot of those bands into the Sunday event, which is called The Battle of the Bands."
Those bands will battle it out for the cash prize of $1,000. Then the winner will get in the lineup for Oktoberfest and also for Hot Summer Nights.
It's a free event, but they're selling one or two day VIP passes. That'll get you into the VIP hospitality tent for all you can eat and all you can drink, all day long, for free. And the premier pass is also going to include half off a lot of the amusement rides. Those will cost you anywhere from $55 to $125.
All the money they raise is going to the Special Olympics.
But police warn, if you're going to have green beer in your hand all day, do not trade that in for a steering wheel at the end of the night.
All across the county, police and sheriff's officers will have full staff out all weekend. They're looking for impaired drivers, and since spring breakers are also here this weekend, they're also looking for underage drinkers and for anyone serving underage drinkers.
Drinking underage has severe consequences, from losing driving privileges to hefty fines and jail time. If you provide alcohol to someone underage, you can also be charged.
Lieutenant Joey Crosby with the Myrtle Beach Police Department says they acknowledge that with Saint Patrick's Day comes drinking, so officers will be on alert.
Their best advice to you is to have a plan in place before you even take that first sip. Either designate a driver or get a taxi number before you come out there, so that you have it on hand for once you've had one too many.
When it comes to the two-day Myrtle Beach Saint Patrick's celebration, police will provide extra security and traffic control for the event.