Murrells Inlet artist designs ‘Calmetto’ for boat parade
Cal Harrelson’s roots run as deep in South Carolina, the Grand Strand and Murrells Inlet as the iconic palmetto. So it’s not surprising that when he turned to art, he used the state tree as his jumping off point.
Harrelson’s ‘Calmettos’ — dubbed that by his brother John as a combination of palmetto and Cal — grace postcards and driftwood, paintings and T-shirts, including this year’s design for the 30th annual Murrells Inlet Fourth of July Boat Parade.
“I was thrilled when asked to contribute in such a way to support Boy Scout Troop 396, right here in Murrells Inlet,” Harrelson said.
“The palmetto to me is symbolic of this group of Boy Scouts as they, too, are a closely knit group that will stand tall for our country.”
Proceeds from the T-shirt sales benefit the troop, sponsored by Belin United Methodist Church. Ironically, Harrelson served as the troop leader for the troop’s Cub Scouts.
This is not the first time Harrelson, a real estate agent by occupation, has designed a shirt for a community event. His design for the 17th annual Blessing of the Inlet in 2012 went through two printings and sold out.
His Palmetto Pride-Inlet Tide–themed shirts for the boat parade, featuring the red, white and blue Calmetto is already a hit, said Lee Hewitt, founder and chairman of the parade. The shirts have sold faster than any other design.
His success as an artist seems to surprise Harrelson, a graduate of the University of South Carolina — in a move to equal time, he married a Clemson graduate.
He started creating the Calmettos on glass and then moved to plywood, creating gifts for friends, and the work expanded from there.
Now his work hangs and is for sale locally at Lee’s Inlet Apothecary, Pawleys Island Mercantile in the Hammock Shops at Pawleys Island as well as Dandelions in Harvest Commons, also at Pawleys Island.
Farther afield, you can find Calmettos in Greenwood, Charleston, the Upstate and even the state gift shop. Marketing his work came naturally. Before turning to real estate, he had his own public relations firm, with a client list that was promoted nationally.
But Harrelson is much happier closer to home with his wife, Julie; son Julian and – what else – the state dog, a boykin spaniel, Inlet Beaty, called Beauty for short.
Harrelson comes by his love of his native state genetically. His grandfather W. L. Harrelson was Myrtle Beach’s first mayor and his great-uncle John C. Calhoun represented the state in Congress before being elected vice president.
Harrelson also dabbled in politics, but not as a candidate.
He directed the ’84 Reagan-Bush campaign in the state, and has also worked congressional campaigns, all the while celebrating South Carolina.
“All my being is South Carolina,” he said. He lives it, he sells it, and with the Calmettos, he celebrates it all the time now.
By Anita Crone
For The Times
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