FOLLY BEACH, SC – Center Street business owners on Folly Beach say the street festivals in the slower winter months keep them open in the off-season. But some year-round residents say the festivals are a safety concern and create commuting chaos.
Folly Beach City Council chambers hosted a town hall meeting tonight and heard some of the pros and cons of the festivals.
Keith Bolus says it’s not always fun living on Folly. “It’s one festival every three to four weeks. It’s a lot! The streets are open all day and there’s open drinking on the streets,” said Bolus.
He says the popular street festivals, like Folly Gras, do more harm than good for the community.
“We have seven of them. Seven of them during the wintertime, that’s a lot of festivals to have.”
Bolus says these festivals don’t come cheap. Bolus estimates that each costs about $10,000 of taxpayer money. In a year, the city spends about $70,000 on the festivals. “So the cost far outweighs, in my opinion, the benefits of the festival.”
Bolus also says partygoers go all day and then get behind the wheel of cars at night. “One of the last festivals, we had six accidents,” explained Bolus. However, Bolus said he only thinks two of the accidents were related to the festival.
But others see the party at the edge of America differently.
Ben Bounds is the Director of the Sea and Sand Festival and also a member of the Business Association of Folly.
“It’s a huge boost to our economy in an off-season month,” said Bounds.
Bounds says businesses get to stay open that otherwise would be forced to close. “I think that’s something that gets lost in the argument is the trickle-down effect that if you did shut these things down, you end up having businesses that close up shop for several months. Those people that live on this island, and that work at these places, are not going to go to work for those three to six months.”
On Thursday, council members took notes and heard from close to 50 residents why they support or oppose the festivals.
Councilman Eddie Ellis said, “Well our intentions now are to identify any concerns and problems and come up with solutions and then move forward from there.”
Officials say the first off-season festival isn’t until October, so they’ll weigh their options and go from there.
Bounds told News 2, “You have an overwhelming majority of people that are in support, and you have a very, very small vocal minority of people who are opposed.”
Folly Beach City Council members say they heard some great points like figuring out other traffic patterns and creating a wrist band system to identify of-age drinkers.