Add Coastal Uncorked to the list of festivals, attractions and
amenities that are helping rebuild downtown Myrtle Beach and
becoming staples of the Myrtle Beach experience.

At least, thats what organizers hope will happen now that the
food, wine and beer festival has abandoned its tasting trolleys
for the terra firma of the former Pavilion lot on the oceanfront,
which will, some say, give it a whole different feel.

Its going to be more of a let-your-hair-down event, said Chris
Walker, a Coastal Uncorked board member, downtown merchant and
member of the Oceanfront Merchants Association. More casual. Less
high-heels and wing-tips.

For the first two years, the upscale Coastal Uncorked festival
ranged farther and wider around the Grand Strand, holding many
events in many different places, and taking participants on a
mobile food-and-wine tour of area hotels and restaurants.

But operating the tasting trolleys got too expensive and
complicated, said festival Executive Director Sara Wise.

Its really a challenge to operate a mobile festival, she said.
This will be far more convenient for guests. Its a beautiful
property, and it has a gorgeous view, and everyone can be in the
same location without waiting for a trolley to pick them up.

The organizers, including founder Heidi Vukov, want the
3-year-old festival to grow, and Vukov said having a central
location for many of the big events makes it more manageable.

Coastal Uncorked is leasing a portion of the 11-acre former
Pavilion lot on Ocean Boulevard between 8th and 9th avenues
north, and will hold its biggest events there, including the
tasting tents and Gourmet Village, the chefs challenge and the
Food Fight and Finale Gala.

The festival is sharing the lot with the new Myrtle Beach
Adrenaline Adventures zip-line course, which could add flavor of
a different kind to the event. And just being downtown in the
citys oldest, core entertainment district will probably also
influence how the festival develops.

It will probably benefit from more walk-in visitors, said
festival founder Heidi Vukov. Prices have gone down, too, from
the previous $75 for tasting trolley tickets to a four-tier
ticket plan:

For $10, you get access to the festival grounds, where you can
buy food in the Gourmet Village from any of the many restaurants
that will sell everything from cheeseburgers and ice cream to
shrimp and grits and crab cakes, Vukov said.

For $30, you get beer, wine and BBQ tastings and access to the
festival grounds and Gourmet Village.

For $40, you get access to the festival grounds and you get to
take part in one of three 3-hour tasting sessions, where you can
sample more than 200 wines, more than 100 beers, and food,
including barbecue.

For $50, you get admission to the Food Fight and Finale Gala,
which features a live, Iron-Chef-style cooking competition, food,
beer, wine and spirits.

For $100, you get access to all three festival tasting sessions,
the grounds, and a ticket to the Food Fight and Finale Gala.

There will be other reasons for crowds to gather on the
oceanfront lot, too, to watch or take part in an old-fashioned
grape stomp, live music — including the tunes of A1A, one of the
best-known Jimmy Buffett tribute bands in the country — and a
wine shop on the festival grounds.

The festival is still a week long, from April 22 through 29, and
will still feature a variety of events that are not downtown, as
well, such as the wine dinners at area restaurants, Sip &
Stroll at The Market Common — where people can pay $10 and get
samples from The Market Common Restaurants and bars as they
meander through the area, and Sip & Shop, an afternoon of
snacks and drinks at several local womens boutiques.

Its a new format, Wise said, and one that we hope will be well
received.

She said tickets for the festival have already been purchased by
people in about a dozen other states. Last years crowd was
estimated at 6,000 people, and Walker said the hope is to get
10,000 to 12,000 this year — about the same estimated crowd size
for the Oceanfront Merchants Associations St. Patricks Day and
Oktoberfest events.

To help support the festival, the Myrtle Beach Downtown
Redevelopment Corp. constructed a paved patio on the former
Pavilion lot that will serve as the festivals central area,
around which the tents, booths and a small amphitheater are being
put up. The patio is permanent, and will benefit future
gatherings there, too.

Usually, the redevelopment agencys contributions go for
entertainment, but DRC Executive Director David Sebok said the
festivals move downtown presented a unique opportunity to help
Coastal Uncorked and any other events that book that space after
it ends.

For Sebok and Walker, having Coastal Uncorked become a downtown
event is one more item on the list of reasons for people to visit
downtown.

I think it will work both ways — people from Coastal Uncorked
will visit the downtown shops and attractions, and people
visiting downtown will check out Coastal Uncorked, Sebok said.

Walker agrees.

People might want to come early and check out downtown before
their tasting sessions, or stay into the evening, he said. We (in
OMA) tend to see these festivals in a big-picture way — they
draw people downtown, give them a new look at the boulevard, and
remind locals that its cool to come down and have fun on the
oceanfront.

People planning to visit Coastal Uncorked would be wise to go
early, stake out a good parking spot and stay around awhile. The
Ninth Avenue parking garage holds 1,000 cars and there are
hundreds of public and private spaces and lots around the core of
downtown.

Even though there are more parking spaces downtown than there
ever have been in the history of Myrtle Beach, Walker said, if
the past few weeks in downtown are any indication, its going to
be crowded.

Thats what were counting on, Vukov said.

The measure of success, Walker said, isnt just in the number of
tickets sold, but in the feedback the board gets from vendors.

We usually get that feedback in the week after the event. We hear
if they were nonstop busy, if they want something different, he
said. The vendors know their customers better than anyone, and
there are a lot of great people involved in this.

The big tasting tents will probably draw attention, but at least
one group of oceanfront visitors will get a birds eye view of the
festival from the zip-lines right behind the festival grounds.
Myrtle Beach Adrenaline Adventures leases the other portion of
the lot from The Burroughs & Chapin Co., and plans to open
just a few days before Coastal Uncorked kicks off.

Maybe we can do a Sip & Zip, Wise joked. People can take the
zip-lines right into the tasting tents.

Both uses are long-term temporary, until B&C makes plans for
redeveloping the lot. Many people are betting thats years away,
and in the meantime, theyve found other ways to keep the land
from being just a big open space where an amusement park used to
stand.

The zip-lines and the festival add two more pieces to the puzzle
that is the evolving downtown of Myrtle Beach.

Myrtle Beach was built on having something for everyone, and the
boulevard used to be a microcosm of that, Walker said. We lost a
lot of diversity down there for a while in the late 90s and early
2000s, and we fell behind the other areas offering entertainment.
But in the past few years, weve gotten back on point. (Coastal
Uncorked) just adds another layer of diversity.

Im expecting an amazing weekend.

Original Story Here

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