By TIM BULLARD
MYRTLE BEACH — Bob Derr’s NYFD cap stood out in the crowd as the deputy fire chief of the Myrtle Beach Fire Department surveyed the crowd at the 18th Annual Taste of the Town sponsored by St. Andrew Church at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center Oct. 24.
A co-chair of the event, Derr had just returned from New York City on Tuesday.
“Four of us from our fire department went up to attend two of the services for the firefighters up there,” he said. “We went up to pay respect to our fallen brothers.”
The Taste of the Town was a welcome uplift for Derr.
“This is what America is about. I’ve got two daughters who graduated from St. Andrew’s. I’ve got one more to go who is still there. This is a great event for the school to get some additional things that the church can’t always afford.”
Herbert Riley of Myrtle Beach echoed Derr’s remarks.
“It’s good to see this kind of turnout. It shows you that people are starting to break out of the invisible prison of terrorism that so many of us have been put into,” said Riley. “This is the way you conquer that fear. People out here, they’re not thinking about anthrax. They’re out here socializing and having a good time, and that is most important right now.”
Principal Molly Halasz was pleased with the turnout at the convention center.
“Things are going very well. We have a full room even though we have more space than we normally have. We added a third room this year, so we have a lot more room for people to sit. We usually have between 5,000 and 6,000.” Around $50,000 is raised at the event, she said.
“We use the money mostly for capital expenditures, items that are not normally covered in our ordinary budget, such as computers. Last year we put a new roof on the school. This year we are hoping to add a primary playground, so this money will go a long way to help us.”
The principal then paid tribute to the event’s volunteers.
“They are excellent. They have been working for so long to get this ready,” she said.
Kathy Young, event chair, added, “Just imagine that this entire event was put on by the parents of St. Andrew’s. This is entirely a volunteer event.”
Matt Sadota, general manager of radio stations EZ 105.9 and 94.5, was co-chairman of publicity for the evening. “We always get three or four radio stations to come out and broadcast. Then we promote it ahead of time,” he said. “It is such a huge event, you almost don’t need publicity. In some ways, it runs itself.”
Restaurant owner Wayne Gray of The Spring House said, “As always, each year is better than the previous year. They get better every time.”
Msgr. Chet Moczydlowski, pastor of St. Andrew’s, was chatting at a table with parish members of St. James Church in Conway.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic. I had to park off-campus because the parking lot is full, so that is a good sign,” he said. “I think everyone is enjoying it. The food is great.”