CONWAY, SC June 16, 2014 – The Gullah Geechee people of Horry County and members of the Horry County government will officially welcome two historical signs erected along Highway 17. One is located at the SC border entering the county from NC and the other near Murrells Inlet at the border between Georgetown and Horry Counties. “The presence of these signs today represents a lot of hard work that came before them. The work began in the early 1980s when most of it had to do with raising awareness, telling the story and educating the people,” claims Veronica D. Gerald English professor at Coastal Carolina University and Vice Chairman of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Commission. These signs will tell drivers that they are travelling along the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor as well as recognize the Gullah Geechee people, their heritage and contributions.
This corridor is comprised of the coastal regions (and thirty miles inland) beginning around Pender County, NC and continuing along Highway 17 to St. Augustine, FL, thus making Horry county a part of a nationally recognized Heritage Area. The Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is the 49th of 49 such designations around the country. “I am always so impressed when I think that this recognition places us right alongside other National Heritage Areas like Niagra Falls,” Gerald went on to say.
The idea for heritage corridors or areas began in1984 when President Reagan signed legislation to create the first of a new kind of National Park Service (NPS) designation. The National Heritage Area was envisioned as a way to cross the culture-nature divide and leap political boundaries with the goal of blending public-private resource conservation, interpretation, and community revitalization. Heritage areas tell stories that are too big, too gritty, too alive, a too expensive to be confined to the boundaries of traditional national park units. And heritage areas harness grassroots energy to power all of this good work.
The signs placed in Horry County are two of 50 signs placed along the corridor in NC, FL, GA, and SC.
The recognition and welcome Ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m. Thursday, June 19, 2014. Those planning to attend should meet at the SC Welcome Center on Highway 17N in Little River at 9:30 a.m. “We are especially excited that the ceremony is being held at the site of the sign in Little River,” said Sondra Ward, resident of Little River and chair of the Annual Little River Gullah Geechee Heritage Festival. “A lot of people are still not aware that this culture extends in and beyond Little River,” She added. Members of the Horry County community, mayors, county and state officials and representatives from neighboring counties are expected to attend.