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Parris Island graduations to partially reopen to visitors in May

U.S. Marine Corps recruits of Fox Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, finish the last stretch of a nine-mile hike Aug. 30, 2017, on Parris Island, S.C.

JOSEPH JACOB/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By KATE HIDALGO BELLOWS | The Island Packet | Published: April 13, 2021

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PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. (Tribune News Service) — One of the Lowcountry's most cherished traditions and sources of revenue will begin again next month after being suspended for more than a year.

The Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island announced on Monday that starting May 7, it would allow a limited number of visitors on base for the Friday morning colors and graduation ceremonies, which cap recruits' 13-week training.

The move is "part of a gradual approach to reopen the depot completely to visitors," a press release stated.

Parris Island has been closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic since March 2020. The graduations have been live-streamed on Parris Island's Facebook page, often drawing thousands of comments from viewers.

Next month, the base announced, those who work or live on Parris Island; visitors approved by the recruit depot; and two visitors per each graduating Marine will be able to attend the ceremonies. Graduating Marines will get to choose their visitors about two weeks before graduating.

The move is promising news for the economy north of the Broad River, said Robb Wells, president and chief executive officer of Greater Beaufort-Port Royal Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"The military graduations have always been a source of dependable tourism activity in Northern Beaufort County, especially within the City of Beaufort, Town of Port Royal, whether it be restaurants or retailers or overnight accommodations," he said. "There was consistency to that, you built your budget around them, your ebbs and flows of the seasonality. ... In March of last year, when we saw military graduations go away, it reshaped the rest of 2020 and into 2021, and that consistency has been gone."

Wells said that before the pandemic, Parris Island graduations accounted for roughly half of all overnight accommodations in Northern Beaufort County, including hotel reservations and short-term rentals. Occupancy have started to pick up recently, but room rates and revenue have not increased, Wells noted.

Thus, the graduation news "is a great confidence boost," Wells said.

What to know

All visitors must wear face coverings, socially distance among groups and adhere to occupancy limits. Visitors should not attend if they have any COVID-19 symptoms or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, the base said.

Visitors seeking entry to the base may start arriving at the random vehicle inspection gate at 5 a.m. on graduation day. They must bring a photo ID.

Graduation usually occurs from 9 to 10 a.m., the base said. New Marines then have on-base leave until 4 p.m. Visitors must leave the base no later than 5 p.m., and the new Marines then ship off to the School of Infantry. A full schedule can be found at https://www.mcrdpi.marines.mil/News/Press-Releases/Article-View/Article/2569780/depot-to-allow-limited-access-to-recruit-graduations-starting-may-7/.

Family Day — the Thursday before graduation, when new recruits are allowed to see their loved ones on base for the first time in three months — remains canceled.

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