Sea and Sand Festival sees changes after 'Folly Gras disaster'

posted by Caroline Balchunas, WCIV - 

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — City officials at Folly Beach have cracked down since the Folly Gras Festival. Those working the Sea and Sand Festival Saturday said it was a much more calm environment.

In fact, they said the festival said there were several differences between this weekend's event and what the city experienced in February.

"It's a lot more structure but still a lot of fun. We have a new motto: 'respect Folly.' It's very important and we're living up to it," Nick Thomas, a member of the city business association said.

City officials called Folly Gras a disaster.

"It was kind of a perfect storm. We had 80-degree weather in February, and I don't think anyone was prepared for the amount of people we had out here on that day. Things went awry," Thomas said.

Traffic was smooth sailing Saturday -- something else that was much different than what was experienced during Folly Gras.

“I left here at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and traffic was backed up all the way to the connector leaving here. They were overwhelmed," Jene Gilchrist, a lead security guard said.

As a result, they're running a tighter ship.

RELATED: Folly Beach business owners want better plan for Folly Gras

"Since the incidences that occurred that weekend, we have been contracted by the association to provide security detail for the Sea and Sand Festival," Gilchrist said.

But they didn't stop at heightened security.

"No outside food or beverages. All beverages are being served in big, old, red Solo cups. So, there is no discrepancy as to whether or not someone has something that they should or shouldn't have here," Gilchrist said.

Plus, staff set up gates at every street exit. It's something they've never done before. They were also checking ID's and were more strict with wrist bands.

"I think a lot of people are going to appreciate the attention to detail and the organization," Thomas said.

A more family-friendly setup is what Folly Beach is aiming for.

"It's my understanding if it happens again, the festivals are gone. You can look around and see all the awesome people, so they want to ensure that the festivals continue," Gilchrist said.

Those with the Folly Beach Association of Business say there has been talk of perhaps getting rid of Folly Gras in the future.

Business owners stated that they made great money during that festival but with the big crowds today, they believe the stricter environment won't keep people away.

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