HORRY COUNTY (WMBF) - Myrtle Beach State park managers are already planning for the next Santa on the Beach event. They said Santa at the beach started out as a small event to get people to come to the park during the off-season. Five years later people are waiting in line for hours to get their picture taken with Santa.
"Wouldn't it be neat if Santa was on vacation?" said Jerry Ives, Park Manager.
Ives said that's what sparked the idea for the Santa on the Beach event back in 2010.
He tells me organizers believed it was a unique and original idea. Santa at the Beach started with just getting your picture taken with Santa at Myrtle Beach State Park. Those pictures are free - but visitors do have to pay admission to the park. After the first year, Ives says they knew they had to find more attractions to entertain the large crowds. Now they've added a fantasy play land for the kids - along with camel rides.
"Last year was our most successful event, we had about 1000 people get their picture with Santa last year," said Ives. "And this year looking at the numbers we haven't gotten everything in yet, we think it's going to be at least that many if not more."
This year - an extra Santa was also called in to cut down on lines and offer two different picture sessions. Even so people ended up waiting both on the beach in the morning and on the pier in the afternoon for their chance to take a free photo with Santa. While this year's event may be over - discussion about it isn't. Following the event each year - Ives says organizers meet to discuss what more they can do for the next year because the admission fees all those visitors pay - bring a lot of money in to the park during the off season.
"We were packed. It was a weekend in December. Five years ago on a Saturday in December, we might have a few people come out and walk to the beach, walk on the pier, maybe a few people fishing. So that's how it came to be. So we're always looking for ways to get people on the park in the off season."
Ives says planning for next year's event will start soon to make sure the Santa lovers have another great experience.