The Republican debate was nationally televised live from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on January 11, 2008. Hosted by Brit Hume, the event was “opened with a country music touch – a rousing rendition of The Star Spangled Banner by Calvin Gilmore.” (AP News Service.)
The debate, which was sponsored by the South Carolina Republican Party and Fox News Network, was a first for Myrtle Beach, garnering worldwide attention for the seaside resort, and bringing the media to its hotels and restaurants in droves. As a 23-year landmark on what is known as the Grand Strand, Gilmore and his Carolina Opry were the natural first choice of South Carolina Republican leaders for the honor. Gilmore’s vision for entertainment made a significant contribution to the strong growth of the area as a national tourist destination through the past twenty years. The Wall Street Journal says, “Mr. Gilmore’s Carolina Opry, with a fast-paced, all-American show, began selling out soon after the theater opened in 1986 . . . unaware that he was helping touch off the next boom in Myrtle Beach.”
A national debate has never before been introduced by a musical performance, patriotic or otherwise, and it has been speculated that the event might set a precedent for future debates. Gilmore stated, “We felt honored to be asked to participate in such a historic debate, and I am particularly happy about the positive media coverage that Myrtle Beach has received as a result of hosting the debates.”
Gilmore and his Carolina Opry have been featured by USA Today, ABC Nightly News, Southern Living Magazine, Variety, and a host of other newspapers and television shows. It is the only Myrtle Beach show to receive the coveted South Carolina Governor’s Cup, as well as being voted South Carolina’s Most Outstanding Attraction. In recent years, Gilmore has performed regularly on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and he is designated as South Carolina’s Official Country Music Ambassador.