Furman graduation, Clemson graduation, Bob Jones graduation, Newberry College Graduation, Strawberry Festival, Greer Festival, Spartanburg Spring Fling, Reedy River Duck Derby, Kentucky Derby, Shape Note Singing, etc, etc, etc….
The list of events for the first Saturday in May for our area is truly mind-blowing. There was no way I could get to all of them, but I participated in as many as I could.
The craziness started Friday. I packed a sandwich and headed down to Falls Park to enjoy lunch in the beautiful weather. Seems everyone else had the same idea. There were lots of kids in caps and gowns getting photographed in front of the falls. A camera crew wearing Weather Channel logos was filming a group of Segway riders. School groups were having a picnic in some of the open spaces. By some miracle, I managed to find an open swing with the best view.
I wonder how many times I’ve photographed that scene, or if I’ll ever tire of taking photos of it.
I occupied my swing for awhile, eating, reading my book, and watching the activity until the swing got uncomfortable. Flowers were in full bloom in the park, so I wandered a bit. On the Swamp Rabbit bridge they had already hung the banner in preparation for Artisphere next weekend.
Passerelle Bistro was taking advantage of the traffic and great weather. They had a cart set up making crepes. If I hadn’t already had lunch I might have tried one. However, I cared for neither banana nor Nutella, so I was out of luck.
Saturday was when the real madness hit. Laura was going to be tied up with Furman graduation all day, so I was on my own. I had considered avoiding everything and just taking my kayak out somewhere. One thing I did know – as much as I enjoy shape note singing, the thought of sitting in Daniel Recital Hall at Furman for the annual Nan Trammel Singing on a pretty day like this seemed just…wrong. If the event had taken place in an old meeting house church or some other historic setting, maybe, but not in dark, dreary Daniel.
One thing I definitely had on my list – I had not yet visited the Travelers Rest Farmers Market. I decided that would be my first stop.
The place was already hopping when I got there at 8:30. I was surprised at how many vendors there were. I had another surprise. Having visited Pickens Flea Market several times in recent weeks, I was kind of in that same frame of mind. I wasn’t expecting to see so many young affluent hipster-types manning booths for organic farms and all sorts of other goods. It was quite different from just farmers with a few veggies. Travelers Rest certainly has changed. I definitely liked the vibe they had going on.
I spent a good bit of time talking to the vendors and trying samples of their wares.
Today was a plant festival, so there were more vendors than usual. I walked out among the booths that were not part of the covered shelter.
There were several craft booths, but not as many as I expected. There was one booth with small dulcimers and a banjolele, as well as some other cool wood products.
One of the most eye-catching things there was an old VW camper van dubbed the “Wunderbus.” It was set up as a photo booth. For $2 you could hop in and have your photo made. A laptop on the front seat controlled everything. The user controls were simple – a button and a couple of filter modes. I figured I’d give it a try. At first I thought you had to push the photo button for each of the four photos, but I was wrong – it goes automatically. My second pose was messed up. TJ, the operator, said that the van is a hit at proms and wedding receptions, and that they were building up a fleet of these restored vans. Cool business idea. I just wonder how many photos you have to sell to pay for restoration and outfitting a vintage vehicle.
A duo was just getting started in a small performance area. I would have liked to have listened, but the morning was rapidly getting away from me, and I had other places to go.
I thought I might swing by the Strawberry Festival up in the Slater Community. I’d visited before several years ago, and wanted to see what they had going. As I drove up 276 I got behind a couple of food trucks that were obviously heading up to the same venue. Seems that food trucks have really changed the nature of these outdoor festivals, probably for the better. Sure beats having just carnival food options, plus it’s opened up opportunities for tap rooms like the Swamp Rabbit Brewery and Community Tap.
I pulled into Slater with the food trucks, only to find that I was early. Festivities really didn’t get started until 11:00, and they were just getting set up. I couldn’t stick around that long – too much more to see and do. My good friend Bob Donnan was scheduled to play at the Spartanburg Spring Fling, so I decided to head on over that direction. I drove across country and miraculously found a place to park just off of Main Street.
The Spring Fling is huge, rivaling the scope of Greenville’s Artisphere. First up I encountered a classic car show.
There were lots of booths. Most of these seemed to be crafts and goods. There was quite a bit of hand-made jewelry, but not the high-end art I see at Artisphere. It’s kind of hard to describe. To give you an idea, I walked past no less than three booths where I could get a temporary tattoo of a Confederate battle flag.
No food trucks here, but there were TONS of carnival food options.
Eventually I made my way down to the WSSL stage, where Bob was getting set up and running through sound checks. Technically, this was a concert by Taylor Miller, and Bob was accompanying her on guitar. They have been playing several gigs together in clubs in Spartanburg since last summer.
As I watched Bob and Taylor get set up, and got a bit distracted. One woman who must have been a radio “personality” for WSSL kept taking selfies. It was a bit cringe-worthy.
Bob’s wife Roxanne arrived and gave me a big hug, then filled me in on Taylor’s background. Roxanne teaches music in Spartanburg County, and Taylor was one of her students. Taylor needed a guitar back-up for some performance she was giving, and Roxanne had Bob play for her. They have been playing gigs since then. Taylor is now a freshman at Converse College.
The show got underway, and Bob and Taylor did an outstanding job. Bob is a phenomenal guitarist, and Taylor has an excellent singer-songwriter voice.
Here’s a short clip of their performance, recorded with my little Tascam DR-05.
One of Taylor’s classmates at Converse joined her at the end of the set for a couple of songs.
I helped Bob get everything loaded back into his car, and we sat and watched the next band and caught up with each other.
By this time I was getting a bit sunburnt, and needed to head inside. I headed on home for a bit, and to touch base with Laura before she had to head back to Furman. However, my day wasn’t over. I wanted to find a venue to watch the Kentucky Derby, preferably with a rowdy crowd. With all the graduations in town there was no way I was headed downtown. Instead, I headed over to Bimini’s Oyster Bar, which isn’t too far from the house. There I found my rowdy crowd.
I sat at the bar and ordered a martini and fish and chips for dinner while watching the Derby preliminaries. The owner came around and was starting a pool for the race. For a $10 constribution you could pick a horse’s name from a hat. You won a cash prize if that horse won. That meant that there was a limited number of slots available, and someone had to win. When it came down to the last two slots, someone drew one, and since everyone knew the name of the remaing horse and its odds, the owner left it there and said that if that horse won, it would be applied to our tabs.
The couple next to me was quite gregarious. The woman donned a wide-brimmed hat, and we all sang (or attempted to sing) “My Old Kentucky Home.” Then they were off. The horse designated as the “bar’s horse” came in second, and the owner said we all got a round of drinks. I tried to decline, since I hadn’t put in $10, but they insisted. It turned out to be a blast – everyone was friendly, and the food was good. I think I’ll have to come back over here.
By this time I was completely worn out. There was much more I could have done, but knowing Laura had to leave for Florida the next day, I decided to head on home. It had been a great day, even if I could only sample the huge number of entertainment opportunities available.