Day Trips: Can-Am Days, St. Pat’s events launch Grand Strand tourist season

You’d think celebrations across the Carolinas this weekend are simply going green. Myrtle Beach is also going maple-leaf red.

There are St. Patrick’s festivities on the Grand Strand. But the Can-Am Days Festival is also in full swing this weekend. Can-Am is the traditional start of the tourist season, and since 1951 the multiday event has targeted those willing to brave the average March water temperature of 55.

We’re talking about frostbitten, sun-starved Canadian snowbirds. The festival – Saturday through March 22 this year – coincides with spring break in Ontario. And thousands of Canadians do come.

What’s in it for you?

The 27th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival, on Main Street in downtown North Myrtle Beach, kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday; the route is lined with vendors as well as spectators. There’s free public parking near the route and at satellite areas offering shuttles downtown. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the festival has 19 acts at three stages; performers range from pipe-and-drum outfits to singing schoolkids to rock bands. Among the contests is a shepherd’s-pie-eating contest that’s free and open to the public. (Note: You need to register by 2 p.m. Oh, yeah: You have to clean your plate without using your hands.) Details:

Meanwhile, Irish Fest – with free entertainment and beer vendors – is 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday in Valor Park at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach.

Saturday and Sunday, noon to 11 p.m., the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk St. Patrick’s Day Festival will be staged on Ocean Boulevard between 8th Avenue North and Mr. Joe White Avenue. There’s live music, a beer garden, food vendors and a carnival for kids. Admission is free. Details:

More free Can-Am activities:

On Sunday, the Festive Brass of Myrtle Beach gives a 3 p.m. concert at First United Methodist Church, 901 N. Kings Highway. At noon Monday at Inlet Square Mall’s center court (10125 U.S. 17 in Murrells Inlet, S.C.), tribute artists from Legends in Concert will perform; the Beach Brass Quintet will also play. The show moves to Myrtle Beach Mall, 10177 N. Kings Highway, on Tuesday, with entertainment from noon-2 p.m.

From March 18-20, there’s an 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. breakfast meet-and-greet staged by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber, at 1200 N. Oak St. After the free continental breakfast (pastries and coffee), free shuttles head inland to nearby Conway – the beautiful and historic Horry County seat – where you can stroll its Riverwalk, take a walking tour or see the downtown on a trolley. The shuttle to and from downtown Myrtle Beach runs every two hours.

Bordsen is the Observer’s travel editor.

Want to go?

Can-Am Days details: