Oceanographers, poets, shell artists and various and sundry sandistas from dogs to children know the beach is the hub of happiness — flying Frisbees, crackling radios, waves lapping at the rocks and striped umbrellas — A place where adults restore their spirits and children extend theirs. The beach is quite possibly the best place to gather family and friends and if you explore a spot like the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina, you’ll find a year-round reunion possibility with endless sea-smooching-sky panoramas and loads of lively activities and attractions: live-entertainment theaters, amusement parks, shopping, championship golf courses, delightful cuisine and historical sights.
There are countless accommodation options along sandy beaches stretching 60 miles from Little River to Georgetown, but the reunion planner needs a place that has it all in one package. Two of the finest resorts catering to reunion groups in Myrtle Beach are the Sands Resorts and Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort.
In 1972 Sands Resorts opened with 150 guest rooms and today six oceanfront properties include 1,600 guest rooms and 25,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. You’ll notice superior service here because all employees must graduate with a master’s in guest service arts from Welcome University, the resorts’ extensive customer service training program. Cindy Milbourne, who organized the first Bing Family Reunion in ten years, noticed the super service from the outset. “I started by searching the Internet and sent feelers to different places in Myrtle Beach, Sands was first to respond, I liked what they had to say,” Milbourne explained. “They collected a packet of information about food and room rates and worked out a special rate and a wonderful deal for us.” Milbourne had a paltry five months to plan a reunion for over 100 people. “One of our younger family members died in February 2003 and he always talked about gathering the family. At his funeral we discussed the fact that we only seem to gather when someboe dies.
I took it upon myself to get the family together,” she explained. “When I started I didn’t have a clue,” she continued, “so Hilton Head was our first idea but I couldn’t get the response I needed, plus Hilton Head is nice but not as geared to children as Myrtle Beach. At Myrtle Beach, the kids liked the amusement park, waterpark and aquarium, there’s shopping and lots of family activities that don’t cost a lot but it’s also relaxing.” Family members from infant to age 85 descended upon the Sands Resorts for a welcome reception, two buffet meals, a BBQ on the beach set up by Sands staff, memorial service, family meeting about the next reunion and plenty of free time so family could enjoy the resort’s many amenities. “I liked the personal attention they gave us,” Milbourne explained. “Angi Young (Corporate Sales Manager at Sands Resorts) put menus together, emailed back and forth and by the end of it all, we were old friends and I felt like I was the most important person she had to deal with. Angi and the staff went above and beyond, we felt like we were family and they were so understanding and helpful. I had never seen the property and I hadn’t been to Myrtle Beach in 15 years, so they sent me many pictures and making the reservations was so easy,” Milbourne concluded.
“We have roughly 43 reunions a year,” Young explained, “including family, military and school. Many reunions are repeat business. We have groups who have come for years and booked for future years. We pay special attention to reunions because we understand they choose us to ensure reunion success. We have hospitality locations to gather and reminisce,” Young said. Phil Costantini, Assistant Director of Sales at Sands Resorts, thinks moderately-priced hotels on the beach and special service resorts provide make Sands THE place to have a reunion. “We have theme parties, patriotic parties by the pool, ample bus parking and friendly people — we know what to do!” Costantini said. “We have a $2 million waterpark that’s popular with kids but it’s the combination of price, amenities and flexible room types, like two and three bedroom suites reunions love.”
Mr. and Mrs. Art Pelkey’s group has met every October for 21 years and this is the fifth 774 Tank Destroyers Battalion (who fought under Patton) reunion held at Sands Resorts. “Everyone loves it,” Mrs. Pelkey beamed. “We like it so much, many come two days early to just laugh together and tell stories — ladies tell jokes and men tell war stories. We like the condos and they include a nice breakfast buffet with our room plus a big meeting room.” The Sands’ staff fixes a head table for the group’s impressive memorial dinner. “A chaplain starts the dinner, we read the names of the 18 men killed in WWII and we usually have a speaker.” Pelkey explained. The October 2003 reunion counted 68 members at the dinner and some took excursions to the Carolina Opera and Alabama Theater for music and comedy. “The Sands Resorts people are really wonderful,” Pelkey concluded. Find out for yourself at www.sandsresorts.com or call 800-840-2601.
Nature certainly grandstands everywhere in Myrtle Beach, with peach fuzz sunrises and cerulean skies, but scenery alone does not a reunion make. As Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort guests, your group enjoys the largest resort waterpark in town, heated in April and October, which features mini waterslides, an enormous children’s wading pool and dolphin slide. Want more? How about a 3000 sq. ft. activity pool for your clan’s little squirts, 17 swimming pools in all including two indoors, Jacuzzis, sauna, steam and fitness rooms, Castle in the Mist – a 28 ft. tall, multi-level play station, activities desk supplying discount tickets to area attractions, mini-golf course, quick-stop grocery store, arcade with over 120 video games, supervised children’s programs all summer-long, numerous restaurants and lounges, some with live entertainment, outstanding golf add-ons, 24-hour security throughout the resort and 17,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Special events might include a traditional low country oyster roast, barbecue in the water park or a magic show dinner theater.
Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort has been a favorite family destination for a half-century, starting in 1954, as a nine-unit hotel to more than 800 units on a little over 14 acres right on the Atlantic Ocean, still owned and managed by the Ammons family. Golfers will want to know Sea Mist maintains a close relationship with the 100-plus area courses and offers value-driven golf packages, too.
The gracious staff at Sea Mist is ready to customize your military or family reunion along the Grand Strand – just call Jean Shadron or Michelle Lane at 800-200-8687 or email them at [email protected].
A standard package for military reunions that many planners choose includes four nights accommodations, oceanfront or ocean view rooms, a breakfast buffet reception, dinner banquet with select menus, T-shirts, the fine hospitality suite with coffee plus all taxes and gratuities.
Some families have returned to Sea Mist for years. The Resort boasts over 50 room types with occupancies ranging from one to 17 people. Sea Mist also offers the unique Family Village consisting of seven completely furnished apartment-style units located in four adjacent buildings. There are cook-out areas available throughout the property so you can have your own BBQ. Take a look at all of the amenities Sea Mist Resort offers at www.seamist.com or call 800-793-6507.
About the author
Journalist/Editor Jacky Runice has penned a weekly travel column for Chicago’s Daily Herald since 1994 and writes about travel and dining for USAToday.com; CBS Local Chicago; and Examiner.com. She expands her repertoire at Kane, Lake and McHenry County (IL) Magazines with articles about everything from healthy living to technology. A former Chicago radio talk show host, Jacky has three grown children who have inherited her love of sampling new cultures, countries and cuisine.