Horry County Fair vendors leave after county asks for $1,000 permit fee

Horry County Fair vendors leave after county asks for $1,000 permit fee

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The Horry County Fair is seeing thousands of people enter its front gates each day,

However, the majority of the fair's vendors are packing up to leave five days early after being asked to pay for a $1,000 Horry County vendor permit.

"It's unfortunate," said Steve Zacharias, general manager of Myrtle Beach Speedway. "I hate for ... the local businesses that were excited and saw we're getting over 10,000 people at the fair."

The Horry County Fair started Friday with 27 independent vendors, mostly local businesses that set up to sell their own goods or food. As of Monday, only nine vendors are operating on site.

Zacharias said he originally thought the vendors were included within the scope of the fair if they were located on the fair site, which would mean they were covered under the fee he already paid the county to host the event.

However, he found out after the fair started the vendors not associated with Strates Shows are excluded from that, so they're required to pay Horry County $100 per day to operate on top of what they've already paid the fair to participate.

"Unfortunately, for a local vendor such as a bow lady or somebody that is face painting that is selling a $2 product, that fee is so high that it's hard for them to justify it," Zacharias said.

Horry County Spokesperson Lisa Bourcier said the special exception the Zoning Board of Appeals granted to allow the Horry County Fair to happen included provisions that said any outside vendors would need to go through the regular vendor permitting process.

On Tuesday, Dawn and Timothy Whitis packed up their tent, which housed Silly Monkey Toy Shop.

"It's sad," Timothy Whitis said. "Many, many hours went into making this happen and we have to leave. We have to put the merchandise back in a box."

They said they can't afford to pay for the $1,000 permit.

"We would've had to get to the point of selling out to actually make money," Dawn Whitis said.

Dawn Whitis said she doesn't blame the Myrtle Beach Speedway for the fee and knows the county is imposing it.

"They went up to bat for us, but they couldn't get anything done," Whitis said.

Zacharias said he understands the county has to follow strict policies.

He worked last year to get Horry County Council to approve an ordinance allowing certain special events for more than seven days in order to bring the 10-day fair to the area.

He said he'll be talking to Horry County again over the next year to try to figure out a more reasonable fee for the vendors.

"I apologized to the vendors," Zacharias said. "I said, 'I'm so sorry. We tried to work it out, but unfortunately we couldn't come to anything right now because with council and with everything that has to happen to make it proper, we have to go through the right channels.'"

This is the first year the fair has been put on at the Myrtle Beach Speedway, so Zacharias said he'll learn from how this year's fair goes and work to make improvements for the 2017 Horry County Fair.

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