The Myrtle Beach Pavilion is no more. It had its last day, and the lights went out one by one. Here's excerpts from one particularly melancholy columnist:
We are here Saturday afternoon to write the obituary for the Pavilion, the 11-acre amusement park that charmed millions of tourists and anchored the Grand Strand for so many years.
It died at 58. Attendance had been declining and the property owners plan to try something new.
It leaves many admirers and one survivor, Myrtle Beach, which is now officially all grown up.
We will explain that more in a second. But for now let's not talk about maturity.
Let's pretend you're 8.
When you're 8, is there anything more thrilling and terrifying all at once than an amusement park?
The music isn't too loud -- it's just loud enough. The only thing better than three rides on the Top Spin is four rides on the Top Spin. The perfect food is cotton candy, except it could use a little more sugar.
The colors spin around in your eyeballs and the sounds bounce around in your ear canals and you get the undiluted glee of knocking the snot out of your big brother on the bumper cars.
That is, if you get in the line.
Sometimes the whole path of your life is revealed right there. You're the one who gets on the roller coaster or you're the one who watches.
It's not a safe place for a young soul. Which is just why so many young souls are drawn to it.
You don't see a place with 8-year-old eyes when you pay a mortgage on it.
The neighborhood around the Pavilion is just a touch dicey -- the kind of place that has T-shirt shops with T-shirts showing a stripper and the words I SUPPORT SINGLE MOMS.
Grown-ups look for other entertainment.
So now just west of the Pavilion you have Broadway at the Beach, which is neither Broadway nor at the beach, but instead is a theme park for adults, which means: shopping.
It's got paddle boats you can ride around the man-made pond, and a restaurant with a Jimmy Buffett theme, and if you don't like any of that, they've got a Rack Room Shoes.
I spent an hour Friday night at Broadway on the Beach and every kid I saw looked bored.
It's perfect for adults -- I liked it just fine -- but if you're 8 there is nothing to thrill you and nothing to scare you.
That's what Myrtle Beach is now, a pleasant place with not much left to discover.
As a half-moon came up and the sun dropped behind the Hurricane, kids sprinted to get in one more ride before the place closed at 8 p.m.
The grown-ups had cameras and they were taking pictures of everything -- the horses on the carousel, the ancient pipe organ, the water in the log flume and all the blinking lights.
Over and over they snapped the shutters, trying to capture it.
It ended up that the longest line was right in the center of the park, at the Wave Swinger. It's a simple ride. You get in a swing attached to two long chains and the ride starts to spin and you are flung out so far you're almost horizontal.
When it gets going good and fast it feels like you'll be thrown loose, over the park and across the fence and into that place where you have to go to school and get a job and buy a house and, some day, die.
The best part about the ride is, it never lets go.