Nearly 150 years ago, long before the term “edutainment” came into use, an adult educational/entertainment movement was born on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in New York State (Wikipedia). They became so popular that “daughter Chautauquas” sprang up in other locations, spreading the movement to other areas of the country in the early part of the 20th century. Common elements of those early assemblies were lectures, religious themes, and music—and they were seen as a more wholesome form of entertainment than the vaudeville performances that were popular at the same time.
After the Great Depression the two world wars, the Chautauqua movement faded away as radio and TV became household entertainment, but it was revived in the 1970s.
Today Chautauqua is associated with living history—performances given in character of historical figures, with an interactive element in which the audience can pose questions to a living, breathing person. Greenville Chautauqua’s website describes it this way: “More than history. More than a performance. More than a story. We are Chautauqua, a nonprofit, experiential oral tradition that brings history to life through interactive theater and compelling discussion aimed at stimulating critical thinking.”
Chautauqua in the Upstate
The Greenville Chautauqua has been bringing history to life since 1999, expanding its programming to Asheville in 2000 and Spartanburg in 2009. The June festival includes events in all three cities, as well as Travelers Rest, Pelzer, and Brevard (NC).
This year’s theme is “It’s Revolutionary,” but it’s not all about the Revolutionary war—using an expansive definition, the festival features Alexander Hamilton (and some of his women), Andrew Jackson, Jackie Kennedy, and Malcolm X.
Click here for the full schedule, and go meet some of the most interesting characters in history.
There’s always something happening in the Upstate, and this weekend there are a ton of festivals in the Upstate to choose from. Every festival, along with the town hosting it, has its own local flavor, so see if there’s one happening in a place you’ve never visited before and check it out!
If you’re inspired by our Instagram photo of the week to go visit Abbeville, this weekend is a good time to do it: Abbeville Spring Festival starts on Thursday and runs all weekend long, with tons of music, crafts, and delicious food.
For a festival and fundraiser rolled into one, head over to Pickens for the 22nd annual Blue Ridge Fest, hosted by Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative employees. You’ll pay for a ticket that gets you access to bands, a classic car show, and more–and the money raised benefits local charities.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Pelham Medical Center Greer Family Fest, and the planners this year have an expanded vision for the festival to reflect Greer’s growth. With Restaurant Row, a Kids Zone, more than 150 vendors, and plenty of live music, there’s something for everyone!
The Reedy River Duck Derby is more than just rubber ducks going down the river–it’s a full-on festival in its own right! Loads of family-friendly entertainment, games, and activities will give you plenty of reason to spend the whole day in the park. And the ducky adoptions fund children’s charities.
Another festival for a cause is Piedmont’s Spring Craft and Vendor Fair, held at the Farm at Sandy Spring, which raises money for community repairs.
Spartanburg’s Earth Day Festival doesn’t actually fall on Earth Day, but on May 4th this year–it’s a celebration of stewardship, sustainability, and our beautiful planet, with interactive, educational activities for the whole family.
If your mouth is watering for the first strawberries of the season, head up to Slater and the Strawberry Festival, where, in addition to delicious strawberries, festival goers can enjoy entertainment, craft vendors, and plenty of other food.
The Spring in Bloom Festival and Bazaar in Mauldin includes a design center with an Ask a Master Gardener booth along with loads of plants for sale for your yard and garden–in addition to plenty of arts and crafts for sale, kids’ activities, music, and food trucks!
And then you can finish off your weekend with beer at the Tamassee Craft Brew Celebration on Sunday! Billed as “the original Oconee County craft beer festival,” there will be 20 different breweries sampling their wares, as well as lots of local food, music, and a home brew contest.
Keep your eye on our calendar for more festivals in the coming weeks–there are plenty more throughout the spring and summer!
by Dewey Evans
Thousands descend upon downtown Pickens, SC each spring for the Blue Ridge Fest, an effort created and operated by Blue Ridge Electric Co-op employee volunteers to raise money for local charities within their four county service area.
Blue Ridge Electric, which has long championed charitable community causes, decided in 1998 to combine the company’s philanthropic efforts and energies into one large, vibrant community event. An employee committee reviews over 100 applications annually, and must make the tough decisions on which charities will receive funding from the event. Visit the 2019 Blue Ridge Fest Charities webpage to view this year’s funding recipients.
Jim Lovinggood, President & CEO of Blue Ridge Electric Co-op, had this to say:
“On behalf of Blue Ridge Electric Co-op employees, I would like to invite you to the 22nd annual Blue Ridge Fest. This year promises to be one of the most entertaining with performances by The Oak Ridge Boys, The Tams and Jim Quick and Coastline! Over the past 21 years, Blue Ridge Fest has generated over $2.8 million dollars to support local Upstate communities. The proceeds from this event will be given to 12 local charities serving Anderson, Greenville, Oconee and Pickens counties. We hope you enjoy this night of great times for great causes.”
In addition to the live musical entertainment and delicious food, festivalgoers enjoy the largest Classic Car Cruise-in in the Upstate— classics such as Model A Fords, Studebakers, hot-rods, and more.
After the highly anticipated performance of The Oak Ridge Boys (and perhaps a little dancing), the evening culminates with a raffle drawing of three cash prizes, with first prize winning $10,000! A raffle ticket can be purchased for $5, or 5 tickets for $20. Click here for more information or to purchase tickets, or you can get tickets at the Blue Ridge offices in Pickens and Oconee.
Jonathan Irick, Director of Main Street Laurens since 2006, has worked hard to make downtown Laurens a place that locals can be proud of and that visitors will want to return to, and he was recently awarded the Main Street America Revitalization Professional Credential. Congratulations, Jonathan!
A press release from Main Street America said of Irick and Main Street Laurens, “During his tenure as the Director of Main Street Laurens, Jonathan has continued to lead the program and its many volunteers to become a model program both across the state and nationally. Main Street Laurens is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote, improve and preserve the unique character and economic vitality of downtown Laurens.”
In 2014, Main Street Laurens won a Hughes Investment Elevate Upstate grant, presented by Ten at the Top, for the Finally Friday on the Square program. It was billed as a “celebration of all things Laurens,” with live music to bring people into the historic downtown area from April through September. The $5000 grant allowed Laurens to pay for the music artists for all of 2015, but the music was just the beginning—other attractions include free trolley rides, extended business hours, and special treats like an ice cream social.
Main Street Laurens’ Facebook page lists events, including the upcoming Sip ‘n’ Stroll Wine Tasting on April 25, and promotes local businesses. If you haven’t visited downtown Laurens recently, check out one of their events, visit their businesses, and be sure to tag any photos you take with #upstatevibe365!
All photos courtesy of Main Street Laurens