March 1, 2019    IMPORTANT MESSAGE 

Due to dwindling financial support and many other challenges faced by the Sunset Beach Concerts, we are unable to continue the Sunset each Summer Concerts.

We wish to thank all our past Sponsors, Bands and friends who have supported our Concerts, performed on our Concert stages and the tens of thousands who have attended our Concerts for the past seven years. We also thank Brunswick County Parks & Recreation for their support and their continued coordination of Concerts in surrounding towns this Summer.

Thank You

Fred Thorne

Wilson Sherrill

Sunset Beach Concert Committee


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Celebrated our Seventh Season of Concerts in Sunset Beach in 2018

The Original Sunset Beach Concerts (2012 thru 2018) have ceased operations due to Sponsorship & financial shortcomings. Please see reprint below from Brunswick Beacon article of

March 21, 2019 concerning plans for the 2019 season.

REPRINT: Brunswick Beacon Article on 2019 Concerts

Town steps in to save Sunset Beach summer concerts.

SUNSET BEACH — Town council on Tuesday approved taking over Sunset Beach summer concerts this year after organizers announced earlier this month they are unable to continue the seasonal series.

People enjoy a previous Sunset Beach summer concert. After seven years, the concerts were cancelled this year by original organizers because they say they can’t garner enough financial support to keep them going. The town is taking over the concerts this year.

People enjoy a previous Sunset Beach summer concert. After seven years, the concerts were cancelled this year by original organizers because they say they can’t garner enough financial support to keep them going. The town is taking over the concerts this year.

Council unanimously approved at the March 19 meeting councilman John Corbett’s motion for the town to take over the series, including providing $35,000 in the 2019-2020 fiscal budget with up to $20,000 to be used to complete the 2019 season and the remainder to be used as startup for the 2020 summer concert season.

The measure also directs town staff to develop and present a plan for administering the concert series.

Event organizer Fred Thorne recently announced via a March 1 Facebook posting that after seven years, the Sunset Beach Concerts series under his management had reached a finale.

Thorne told the Beacon he and concert partner Wilson Sherrill had been unable to put on the town’s concert series this year due to “lack of funding (and) town support.”

“It’s built up for years,” Thorne said last week of the nonprofit series’ pending demise that he did not foresee could be resurrected, at least by himself or anytime in the near future.

He said it was a constant challenge raising funds and managing details of the series consisting of free weekly Wednesday night concerts showcasing regional bands during the summer months.


At Tuesday’s meeting, which was not attended by Thorne or Sherrill, town councilwoman Jan Harris asked why an entity like the newly formed business guild couldn’t be asked about taking over the concerts.

Corbett said if a group is interested, “they can bring it to us.”

In the meantime, Mayor Pro Tem Mark Benton said he didn’t want to lose the concerts this year, suggesting that the town’s future council could make any changes.

Town councilman Richard Cerrato asked, “When did this emergency come to our attention? They should have sent a formal letter to the town.”

Corbett said the series has not been a town function. Benton said he and Corbett approached property owner David Stuart about securing for this year the site used last year for the concerts on the lawn of The Village at Sunset Beach at Sunset Boulevard North and Park Road North.

They said town public works administrative assistant Cindi Stephenson has volunteered to help with the town takeover of the series through its first season.

“These things were not discussed and decided in open government,” Cerrato charged. “They were decided beforehand.”

He said the series could be a nice event for one of the town’s nonprofits to take over. He also questioned whether there is enough time to book bands for the upcoming season. He suggested consulting with people who manage summer concerts in Ocean Isle Beach and Shallotte.

 “No one interested”

 Thorne told the Beacon he and Sherrill previously reached out to 10 nonprofits in Sunset Beach in hopes of spurring a management transition of the series.

“No one was interested,” he said.

“My real estate business always needed to come first,” he said. “For seven years I feel I gave back to the community. Unfortunately, nobody is looking to (manage) it.”

Though well attended, the concerts were “shaky” in 2018, Thorne said.

“The audiences were there, and we drew a lot of vacationers,” Thorne said, including from towns as far as north of Wilmington, Southport and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

“We prided ourselves on having some of the best entertainment in Brunswick County,” he said.

But the bands can’t be booked without funding, and the booking can’t be last-minute, he said, adding fundraising was a constant challenge.

“I always hated going begging for money,” Thorne said. “Sponsorships dropped off year after year.”

Even though last year “people really stepped up to the plate,” Thorne said there were times there wasn’t enough money to pay the bands.

When that happened, “I dug deep in my pocket,” Thorne said. “I can’t tell you how many hundreds of hours Wilson and myself were the guys raising the money, booking bands, finding a concert stand, negotiating a site to have concerts.”

Orchestrating concerts includes many other details like garbage collection, lining up food vendors and port-a-potties and establishing a communication network, Thorne said.

“Nobody knows how much work went in behind the scenes,” he said. “We had such a communication network. If we had a last-minute change because of the weather or the band got sick or something, word went out sort of magically and nobody showed.”

Thorne said it took him two-and-a-half years to obtain 501C4 status for the series, then there was dealing with the IRS.

“All that accounting fell on two people,” he said. “We had such a struggle.”

In the past the town of Sunset Beach has contributed funding to the series. Last year, it was $10,000, making the town a platinum sponsor, but for this year the town has contributed “not a penny,” Thorne said.

Since announcement about the series management ending was posted on Facebook, Thorne said they had received hundreds of comments from disappointed people.

“Everybody was sad, but they understand the predicament,” he said.

Other summer concerts                                                                                                                                                                                  
 Sunset Beach Concerts is one of eight venues falling under the annual free summer movies and concerts series touted seasonally by the Brunswick County Parks and Recreation Department.

“We are the only one that was run by two volunteers not associated with the town,” Thorne said.

Brunswick County Parks and Recreation is a sponsor of all eight locations on a limited basis, Melinda Johnson, marketing and events coordinator for the department, told the Beacon on Tuesday.

“My main goal for this series was to help all the eight towns come together for marketing purposes,” Johnson wrote.

In the beginning, the concerts were at three locations — Ocean Isle Beach, Southport and Holden Beach. Shallotte and Leland added their own series as well.

Johnson said marketing was piecemeal with everyone trying to do the best they could to get word out about the series. She said a partnership was formed with The Brunswick Beacon to help organize marketing efforts. After that, others came on board to launch concerts in Sunset Beach, Oak Island and Calabash.

Johnson said she receives a grant from the Brunswick Arts Council, which helps her pay for some of the bands and also helps with overall marketing efforts, including creating a program brochure.

“The partnerships between all the towns and organizations has been great for the public,” Johnson wrote.

Ocean Isle Beach’s Friday night concerts, which are among the oldest and longest-running, are managed by the Ocean Isle Beach Property Owners Association.

OIBPOA president Mark Robertson said this year will be their 19thseason. He said if he knew the secret to their success, “I would try to bottle up and sell it.”

“We are set up differently than other municipalities,” he said, noting the OIBPOA sponsorship is a constant in conjunction with receiving some funding from the county and town of Ocean Isle Beach.

“We make that a point in everything we do,” he said. “We listen to feedback on what people want in setups, vendors, bands, music. We just try to get real tuned in to the people we’re supposed to serve as property owners. We’ve been very, very fortunate with great support from concertgoers and every level in between. Local businesses love to be a part of it.”

The Holden Beach Concert Series began over a decade ago with the local Merchants Association first taking the lead in holding concerts, assistant town manager Christy Ferguson said.

In 2014, the town took over facilitation of the series, which is currently run through the town parks and recreation department. 

Ferguson said they have about 15 concerts on Sunday nights from Memorial Day through Labor Day, which are funded through the town’s Beach Preservation Access & Recreation Tourism (BPART) budget, with this year's seasonal lineup of concerts just released on Monday.

“We work mutually with the county for advertising purposes, as do other municipalities involved in the series,” Ferguson wrote. “Our concerts are well attended by both residents and visitors, with participation ranging from 400-1,500 per concert. We are fortunate to have the backing of the board of commissioners in understanding the importance of this program for promoting the island.”

She said the only challenge in planning the series is booking bands early enough “as we employ highly talented acts that require scheduling months in advance.”

Calabash’s summer concerts receive a certain amount of money and sponsorships, said event organizer and local businesswoman Kathy Cody of the Calabash Merchants Association, which organizes the concerts.

“I think what helps us stay afloat is a lot of hard work and knocking on doors,” Cody said. “It’s getting sponsors. It’s getting your local businesses to want to be part of the whole vision of the community.”

She said organizers are also grateful for the support they receive from the town.

 Laura Lewis is assistant editor of the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or