Annual Burning of the Socks event: Out with the old (socks), in with the new
The tradition of burning old, smelly winter socks to usher in the spring season began in the mid-1980s in Annapolis, Maryland, and lives on today at the South Carolina Maritime Museum on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast.
Capt. Bob Turner, who lives in Pawleys Island and is active in the Georgetown community, began the tradition, now called “Burning of the Socks,” with a group of friends at a boatyard in Annapolis, Maryland. One year, on the first day of spring, Turner and his friends ceremoniously removed their well-worn winter socks, placed them on a paint tray, doused them with lighter fluid, set them on fire and then drank a beer to celebrate.
Thus began the tradition of sock burning to celebrate spring, and today there are sock-burning events in coastal communities across the country. The Georgetown event, which ushers in the beginning of the spring season on South Carolina’s Hammock Coast, features sock-burning festivities, where attendees take turns throwing their socks into a bonfire, along with musical entertainment and local cuisine.
This year’s 9th annual event, set for Friday, March 24, 2023, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the museum, will also include a donation drive for socks. They will be given to Friendship Place, a local nonprofit that helps less fortunate people in the community. People who bring new socks to donate will be entered into a drawing to win a door prize.
Tickets for the event are $25 for members of Friends of the Museum and $30 for non-members. All proceeds benefit the South Carolina Maritime Museum.
“This year’s Burning of the Socks event will combine old and new traditions,” said Susan Davis, a board member with the Harbor Historical Association, the fund-raising organization for the South Carolina Maritime Museum. “We will indeed keep the fire lit for the incineration of any well-worn winter socks; but will now encourage attendees to bring new socks for a donation to local shelters.”
Turner and his family usually attend the annual event in Georgetown, and it has become tradition that he reads his “Burning Socks for the Equinox” poem. The Equinox is the first day of spring, this year on Saturday, March 20.
This year, in addition to Turner reading his poem, Davis will read her revised poem, “A Toast of Blessings for Those Who Have Needs the Most,” which reflects the changes to the event this year. Here is a sample of Davis’s poem:
So, they’ll burn some socks at the Equinox, in a little ol’ fire burning nice and hot.
But giving socks away is the real solution, to stopping that continued Sampit pollution.
Through the spring and the summer and into the fall, they’ll feel real good not wearin’ socks at all.
While their feet are bare and stinky in old deck shoes, others will have feet cozy in something brand new.
Davis said she and other organizers of Burning of the Socks are glad to hold the event after not being able to hold it the past two years due to concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We all need the time to catch up with old friends and make acquaintance with new ones, and the Burning of the Socks event always promises good food and good conversation,” she said. “However, with all we have been through the past two and a half years and current events, we all are even more aware of the needs of those who have less to celebrate.”
With that in mind, the Harbor Historical Association board of directors came up with the idea to have a sock donation this year. Board member John Benson said it was fellow board member Tom Newmister’s idea originally and then Benson contacted Charlie Ball with Friendship Place, a local nonprofit organization, to work out the details.
“It is just a fun evening – go online and register – bring old socks and throw them on the fire pit and place the new socks in the collection boat,” Benson said. “Out with the old, in with the new. Fun for all!”
Ball said when he heard the idea, he thought it was a creative way to help people in the community.
“Changing the nature of the event into a way to help our neighbors is a fantastic idea,” he said. “We need more fun events like this!”
Ball explained that Friendship Place is an organization working to “help our neighbors move forward.” For more than two decades, the nonprofit organization has been located at St. Cyprian’s Church in the West End community of Georgetown.
“Right now, we are in the process of moving from our home of more than 20 years to a new facility. Once the renovations are complete, the new facility will allow us to expand and enhance all of our programs. We hope to move into 1423 Front St. in May!”
Friendship Place was started in 1998 but did not actually start serving the needs of the community until 2000. The group’s vision statement is to “address unmet needs in the Georgetown community, while helping individuals live up to their God-given potential.”
“You never know what people need and it’s always great to have things on hand,” Ball said. “Helping with just a basic human need like food or socks is very humbling. A small thing like socks can make someone’s day!”
He said Friendship Place doesn’t have an official clothes closet, but they keep items on hand for people in need.
“We are thankful that we were chosen to receive the socks,” Ball said. “We will take great care of them and get them out to the people that need them. If by chance there are too many for us to handle, we will share the bounty with other non-profits.”
Tickets for the event can be purchased online here, or by calling the office at 843-520-0111. The South Carolina Maritime Museum is located at 729 Front St. in Georgetown.
For more information about the museum, click here. For more information about Friendship Place, call 843-545-1115, or click here.
By Clayton Stairs / tourism manager for the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce and South Carolina’s Hammock Coast®