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      Festivals aplenty for Grand Strand's St. Patrick's Day weekend

      St. Patrick's Day weekend is shaping up to be a tourism perfect storm for the Grand Strand. If you own a hotel or restaurant, you'll be busy this weekend.

      In North Myrtle Beach, the 24th annual St. Patrick's Day parade gets underway at 9 a.m. Saturday, with more than one hundred floats and entries. That's followed by a festival featuring 175 vendors, spread out over several streets.

      It's a record attendance for an event that's grown by Leprechaun's and blarney.

      "We put on a good show and everybody has a good time, they want to come back from year to year and make it their family tradition," said Callie Wise of the North Myrtle Beach Recreation Dept.

      In Myrtle Beach, Ocean Boulevard will close early Saturday for live music on two stages and a festival that starts at noon. An alcohol-free kids area will be available.

      The Edens of Charleston made the trip to Myrtle Beach for St. Patrick's Day weekend, because they had heard there's a pretty good party going on.

      "We're already having a good time. It's a wonderful time actually," said Larry Edens.

      Judging by the size of the crowd on the boardwalk Friday, it looks like quite a few other visitors heard about the party, too. And that's exactly what the Oceanfront Merchants Association was hoping for.

      "This'll be the third time we've done this exact celebration on Ocean Boulevard and the impact for downtown and for the city has been tremendous," said the group's president, Jonathon Staton.

      The St. Patrick's Day festivals in both cities have grown to the point that organizers say they're attracting big crowds from all over.

      "We've got people from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio that come in just for this event," Wise said.

      Finally, there's the Run to the Sun car show, the largest in South Carolina, with close to 3,000 classic cars. The show runs until 5 p.m. Saturday. And of course the Canadians are here for Can-Am days.

      Diamond Cab company is offering free safe rides home in Horry County. If you end up having too much to drink, just have your bartender give them a call.