On December 7th The Carolina Opry will celebrate its 6,000th performance – a landmark by any standard, in the volatile world of shows and entertainment.
Now a legendary institution on the Grand Strand, The Carolina Opry first opened its doors in a small renovated nightclub in Surfside Beach in 1986, nearly 23 years ago. At that time the only family entertainment choices after the sun went down were miniature golf, or another round of Calabash seafood. Calvin Gilmore saw the potential for entertainment in the popular seaside resort, and chose it as the home for his fledgling variety show. Speculation and rumor ran rampant, and most area residents were skeptical that it could survive.
However, Gilmore’s signature brand of production blended comedy, music, and showmanship into a fun evening of solid gold entertainment. Soon the show was sold out nightly, leading Gilmore in 1992 to build the present 2,200-seat show palace in the heart of Myrtle Beach.
Gilmore’s vision for entertainment at the beach has resulted in phenomenal success for the man from Missouri, as well as a new industry in the Myrtle Beach tourism area. The show has garnered national attention, appearing on the front page of the Life section in USA Today, featured on ABC Nightly News with Peter Jennings, as well as numerous travel shows. While other theaters began to spring up in the wake of The Carolina Opry, the signature show remains the only show in Myrtle Beach to be named Most Outstanding Attraction for the State of South Carolina and the only show to win the coveted Governor’s Cup.