The Carolina Country Music Fest is back for year four with upgrades and additional safety measures
PHOTO: An estimated 30,000 people attended each night of the 2017 Carolina Country Music Fest.
The Carolina Country Music Fest is once again ready to kick off the summer this June with all the things you’ve come to expect from the four-day festival in Myrtle Beach, as well as a few new features aiming to improve the guest experience and ramp up safety. In its fourth year, CCMF is finding its groove. It’s become a go-to festival for country music fans, providing an economic jolt for Myrtle Beach.
“We are coming off our best year last year,” said Bob Durkin, president of Full House Productions, the Charlotte-based company that organizes the festival. “We are kind of hitting our stride.”
More than 30 artists—from some of the biggest names in country to some rising stars—will perform on the oceanfront stage during the festival, which is set for June 7–10 on the former Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park site. This year’s headliners include Toby Keith—who will bring “a little bit old school,” Durkin said—and Luke Bryan, who has picked up new fans as a judge on American Idol. Also headlining is Zac Brown Band, known for laid-back beachy tunes such as “Toes.”
“Zac Brown will be singing about having his toes in the sand. … It’s all about those lyrics coming to life right there,” Durkin said.
Brett Young, Brett Eldredge, Kane Brown and Deana Carter are also among the artists who will take the stage during the festival. Cole Swindell and Tracy Lawrence will kick off the festival weekend with the Thursday Night Concert.
“Country music is about summertime,” Durkin said. “You just look back and see the ocean—it just sends a message.”
Festival-goers should expect a few upgrades and changes this year. Organizers have added features to improve the concert experience for those farthest from the oceanfront stage, expanded the offerings of displays and hands-on games, and implemented a new bag policy. Only clear bags will be allowed through the gates, a new safety measure that comes after a close look at security following the shooting at the country music-themed Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas in October that killed 58 people. In recent years, many sports stadiums and arenas have also shifted to allow only clear bags.
“Everybody is taking a second look at their security and beefed it up” since the Las Vegas shooting, Durkin said. “We’d rather take any precaution we can.”
Organizers are trying to spread the word about the new policy before the festival, but Durkin expects there still will be some who are caught off guard by the new rule on the festival’s first night. Clear bags will be for sale at the gate for around $5 and $10, Durkin said.
“We are going to try to make it as easy and painless as possible,” he said.
Once through the gates, festival-goers will find more food and drink options and additional entertainment off the stage. PlayStation will offer a spot to play games, and the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame will have its Mobile Museum and Fan Experience on display. Organizers are also bringing in additional screens and installing a sound system in the back of general admission seating to improve the experience for those farthest from the stage, Durkin said.
“Things that are going to make you feel immersed and give you that concert experience,” he said. “You will really feel like you are part of it.”
CCMF attracted about 30,000 country music fans each night last year, with tickets sold to residents in all 50 states, plus eight countries, Durkin said, adding the event nearly sold out in 2017. He’s expecting about the same number of festival-goers this year. He said many of them are turning the weekend festival getaway into a week-long family vacation.
“They are bringing the family and enjoying the sun during the day. Then they see the best in country music at night. It’s sort of the best of both worlds. You couldn’t ask for a better weekend,” Durkin said.
All those stays in hotels and other spending fans did while in town contributed to a $14.7 million economic impact from the festival, according to estimates from the City of Myrtle Beach.
The festival—with its oceanfront backdrop—embodies and showcases what Myrtle Beach is all about, officials said.
“We are thrilled that the Carolina Country Music Fest has become the premier event to kick off the summer season in the Myrtle Beach area,” said Scott Schult, executive vice president of marketing for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. “CCMF brings in incredible country music talent, and the venue offers concertgoers a beachfront atmosphere that matches the Myrtle Beach experience: exhilarating, entertaining and picturesque.”
CCMF also has caught the attention of Billboard, which named it one of the 10 Best Country Music Festivals. CCMF snagged the fourth spot, behind Stagecoach in California, Jamboree in the Hills in Ohio and the CMA Music Festival.
“Situated with the picturesque Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, the city of Myrtle Beach becomes country music central for a few days each June,” the CCMF blurb in Billboard reads. That shout-out puts CCMF on the minds of even more country music fans, Durkin said.
“If they are going to see a festival this year, we are on their list,” he said.
But it’s not just country fans who are eager to visit Myrtle Beach for the festival.
“We’ve heard it’s an absolutely amazing festival,” said James Barker, lead singer of the James Barker Band, which will be playing CCMF this year. “Between the weather and the lineup, there was no way we were passing it up.”
The band, from Ontario, Canada, won the 2015 Boots and Hearts Emerging Artist Showcase and have had a string of hits including “Lawn Chair Lazy,” “Just Sayin’” and “Chills.” The band members have never been to Myrtle Beach, and said they were open to recommendations on the must-do activities while in town.
“We’d love for people to tweet us suggestions on what to do,” Barker said. “We also wouldn’t be mad if we could sneak a game or two of golf in while we’re there.”
CCMF is here to stay, even if the festival eventually has to move to a different spot in town, Durkin said. Durkin said organizers have other locations in mind (though he declined to give them) if Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc. decides to move forward with developing the former Pavilion site that is now home to CCMF.
“They’ve assured us that they don’t have any short-term plans to develop it,” Durkin said. “When that day comes, I think we have some options in the Myrtle Beach area.”
CCMF has been so successful that Durkin is talking about bringing another concert festival to Myrtle Beach focused on a different genre, maybe mainstream music or rock ‘n’ roll. He’s aiming to launch it in 2019, likely as an end-of-summer event.
“Another festival would be something we could definitely plan on trying to put together,” Durkin said.
CAROLINA COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL SCHEDULE
Lineup subject to change without notice.
All times approximate.
Friday, June 8 (Gates open at 1 p.m.)
1:30–2 p.m.: Battle of the Bands winner
2–2:30 p.m.: Stephanie Quayle
2:30–3 p.m.: Kennedy Fitzsimmons
3–3:30 p.m.: Dee Jay Silver
3:30–4 p.m.: Tim Montana
4–4:30 p.m.: Deana Carter
4:30–5:30 p.m.: Dylan Scott
5:30–6:30 p.m.: Colt Ford
7–8 p.m.: TBD
8:30–9:30 p.m.: Brett Eldredge
10–11:30 p.m.: Toby Keith
Saturday, June 9 (Gates open at 1 p.m.)
1–1:30: Battle of the Bands winner
1:30–2 p.m.: Warrick McZeke
2–2:30 p.m.: Yesterday’s Wine
2:30–3 p.m.: Lewis Brice
3–3:30 p.m.: Dee Jay Silver
3:30–4 p.m.: James Barker Band
4–4:30 p.m.: Jon Langston
4:30–5:30 p.m.: Morgan Wallen
5:30–6:30 p.m.: Russell Dickerson
7–8 p.m.: Chris Lane
8:30–9:30 p.m.: Brett Young
10–11:30 p.m.: Luke Bryan
Sunday, June 10 (Gates open at 1 p.m.)
1:30–2 p.m.: Bryan Mayer
2–2:30 p.m.: Davisson Brothers Band
2:30–3 p.m.: Kasey Tyndall
3–3:30 p.m.: Dee Jay Silver
3:30–4 p.m.: Muscadine Bloodline
4–4:30 p.m.: Runaway June
4:30–5:30 p.m.: Devin Dawson
5:30–6:30 p.m.: Michael Ray
7–8 p.m.: Kane Brown
8:30–9:30 p.m.: Old Dominion
10–11:30 p.m.: Zac Brown Band
On Thursday, Tracy Lawrence will play from 8:30-9:30 p.m. and Cole Swindell from 10-11:30 p.m. and For the entire lineup, go to www.carolinacountrymusicfest.com.
If you Go:
Carolina Country Music Fest
When | June 7-10
Where | former Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park site, between Eighth and Ninth avenues North, Myrtle Beach
Performers | 30 artists, including Luke Bryan, Toby Keith and Zac Brown Band
More info | www.carolinacountrymusicfest.com
Tips for attending CCMF:
- Bags | Leave your usual bags at home. For the first time, only clear bags will be allowed through the gates for increased safety. Clear bags will be for sale at the gates for between $5 and $10.
- App | Download the CCMF app. It will feature useful info and the latest updates. “Getting the app is a big thing,” Durkin said. “It has everything you need to be a CCMFer.”
- How to pay | For the second year, festival-goers can pay via their CCMF wristband (load money onto it beforehand), credit card or cash. CCMF started as a cashless festival—guests could only pay using the wristband—but added other payment options after getting feedback from festival-goers.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF THE CAROLINA COUNTRY MUSIC FEST