Disney cancels artist’s 22-year contract at Hilton Head SC

Mick Ayres, 62, from South Carolina, has spent a third of his life performing and making friends at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. On November 3, her 22-year career at the resort ended with a five-minute phone call.

“We became like family to each other, and they really meant it,” Ayres said. “What I think is the real tragedy of everything that happened is not that Disney wanted to move on and do something different. I can understand that, but the choice was made by people who had never come to see what I did.

Ayres, known as B’Lou Crabbe to his loyal fans, and her dog, Shadow, a golden retriever, have been with Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort for almost two decades. Ayres refused to reveal Shadow’s age because “the last time I asked a girl how old she was, I almost got bitten,” he said.

When the pandemic struck, Ayres said, he and Shadow were sent home. He said the resort had told him over the past 20 months that they “couldn’t wait” for him to return. The resort continued to pay for Shadow’s vet visits, food, and grooming, according to Ayres, and he honored his contract by not taking concerts nearby in anticipation of his return. This, he said, was particularly difficult because the pandemic almost “wiped out” the entertainment industry, and him with it.

“I’m not saying I’m all that and a bag of crisps, it makes me feel like I’m conceited about it,” Ayres said. “I’m not. I just think we were doing something really wonderful that they couldn’t get in Orlando.

Grace Stepp, the resort’s general manager, did not respond to a request for comment. Disney’s public relations team did not respond to calls from The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette. The Walt Disney World Guest Services team’s automatic response system said the team was beginning the “research process.”

While at the resort, Ayres met 6-year-old children he saw “grow up, go to school, go to proms and be heartbroken” who are now bringing back their own children.

“This is the part that I really miss,” Ayres said. “I was on stage all the time playing for people and … I got to know them.”

He sang, played the violin, banjo-ukulele and whistle in 15 to 24 shows per week at the resort. Sundays were usually great recording days, he said, and he was often on the porch with Shadow welcoming guests with music and stories about the Lowcountry, most of which were adapted from stories. true compiled by his historian grandmother, Genevieve Wilcox Chandler.

“People came here mainly for the beach and the golf, but I wanted to be the one to say, ‘Hey, there’s this whole belly of culture in the South that’s beautiful,’ Ayres said. with the Gullah people and the rich history here and everything in between. “

An injustice

Through her magic, music and storytelling, Ayres has made friends across the country. It inspired a former guest from North Carolina who lost several fingers in an accident when he was younger to take up the banjo and mandolin.

“I told him, ‘I can’t do what you’re doing, I should lose a few fingers to play as well as you do,” Ayres said with a loud laugh.

Before Disney, Ayres was in the Coast Guard from 1977 to 1981 and worked as a photojournalist. From there he got into advertising and even had his own illustration and design business at one point, he said. He left it all behind in 1989 because he couldn’t shake that “creative bone,” he said.

In 1999, Ayres said he was trying out a magician role in Orlando when Disney decided he would “fit like a glove” at the Hilton Head resort.

“I remember looking at them and saying, ‘Wait, you want me to play for you guys (in) what I consider my own backyard?’ Send me home! ‘ “, did he declare.

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Mick Ayres, better known by his stage name B’Lou Crabbe, celebrated his 22nd birthday at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort on Thanksgiving Day just weeks after learning he would not be returning to the resort. Facebook

Since news broke he won’t be returning, longtime resort guests and fans have been flooding social media, heartbroken and angry that their beloved character and her dog won’t be returning.

Steve Kulick, a Pennsylvania paramedic who has vacationed at the resort for the past 13 years, said he started the B’Lou Crabbe and Shadow fan page nine years ago so that guests have a place to share photos and memories. In the weeks following Ayres’ phone call, the “sleeping” fan page grew from 150 members to over 1,100 members, Kulick said.

“They are the heart and soul of this resort,” Kulick said. “Now that the magic has been erased, and we can’t figure out what in God’s name they (Disney) are doing.”

A photo of Mick Ayres and Mickey Mouse posted on Ayres’ Facebook page on November 18, 2016. Facebook

Fans, Kulick said, flooded executives at the Disney resort and parks with emails and phone calls, demanding answers. They didn’t have one, Kulick said. Fan Page administrator Danielle Perry, from Grimsby, Canada, created a Change.org petition three weeks ago to get the folks at Disney to change their minds. On Thursday, the petition had 4,729 signatures.

If asked, Ayres would love to come back to the station, where he “doesn’t regret a second” of the time he spent, he said.

“I haven’t finished,” he said. “Still a lot of magic, I have a lot of stories and music in me.”

Sofia Sanchez is a reporter for The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette. She reports on the crime and develops stories in Beaufort and its surroundings. Sofia is a Cuban-American journalist from Florida and graduated from Florida International University in 2020.

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