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Columbia, South Carolina

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Columbia in South Carolina.

 

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Columbia is the state capital and largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. The population was 129,272 according to the 2010 census. Columbia is the county seat of Richland County, but a portion of the city extends into neighboring Lexington County.

Cultural and literary arts

Town Theatre is the country's oldest community theatre in continuous use. Located a block from the University of South Carolina campus, its playhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Since 1917, the theatre has produced plays and musicals of wide general appeal.
Trustus Theatre is Columbia's professional theatre company. Founded more than 20 years ago, Trustus brought a new dimension to theatre in South Carolina's capital city. Patrons have the opportunity to watch new shows directly from the stages of New York as well as classic shows rarely seen in Columbia.

The Nickelodeon Theatre is a small 77 seat store front theater located on the corner of Main and Pendleton Streets, adjacent to the campus of the University of South Carolina. In operation since 1979, "the Nick", run by the Columbia Film Society, is home to two film screenings each evening and an additional matinee three days a week. The Nick is the only non-profit art house film theater in South Carolina and is the home for 25,000 filmgoers each year.

Columbia Marionette Theatre has the distinction of being the only free standing theatre in the nation devoted entirely to marionette arts.
The South Carolina Shakespeare Company performs the plays of Shakespeare and other classical works throughout the state.
Workshop Theatre of South Carolina opened in 1967 as a place where area directors could practice their craft. The theatre produces musicals and Broadway fare and also brings new theatrical material to Columbia.

The Imperfect Theater Company is Columbia's newest, having made its debut in the capital city in July 2006 with the play, "Some Americans Abroad." The group's goal is to perform intimate theater productions of "imperfect but thought-provoking play-scripts."

The South Carolina State Museum is a comprehensive museum with exhibits in science, technology, history, and the arts. It is the state's largest museum and one of the largest museums in the Southeast.

The Columbia Museum of Art features changing exhibits throughout the year. Located at the corner of Hampton and Main Streets, the museum offers art, lectures, films, and guided tours.

EdVenture is one of the South's largest children's museums and the second largest in South Carolina. It is located next to the South Carolina State Museum on Gervais Street. The museum allows children to explore and learn while having fun.

McKissick Museum is located on the University of South Carolina campus. The museum features changing exhibitions of art, science, regional history, and folk art.

The Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum showcases an artifact collection from the Colonial period to the space age. The museum houses a diverse collection of artifacts from the South Carolina confederate period.

The Richland County Public Library, named the 2001 National Library of the Year, serves area citizens through its main library and nine branches. The 242,000-square-foot (22,500 m2) main library has a large book collection, provides reference services, utilizes the latest technology, houses a children's collection, and displays artwork.

The South Carolina State Library provides library services to all citizens of South Carolina through the interlibrary loan service utilized by the public libraries located in each county.

The Columbia City Ballet is Columbia's ballet company, offering more than 80 major performances annually. Artistic director William Starrett, formerly of the Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, runs the company. The Columbia City Ballet's goal is "to offer South Carolina and Southeastern audiences the highest quality ballet and to provide dancers with only the best professional dance training."

The South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra is Columbia's resident orchestra. The Philharmonic produces a full season of orchestral performances each year. Renowned musicians come to Columbia to perform as guest artists with the orchestra. In April 2008 Morihiko Nakahara was named the new Music Director of the Philharmonic.

The Columbia City Jazz Dance Company was formed in 1990 by artistic director Dale Lam and had the great honor of being named one of the "Top 50 Dance Companies in the USA" by Dance Spirit magazine. Columbia City Jazz specializes in modern, lyrical, and percussive jazz dance styles and has performed locally, regionally, and nationally in exhibitions, competitions, community functions, and international tours in Singapore, Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and Austria.

The Columbia Choral Society has been performing throughout the community since 1930. Under the direction of Dr. William Carswell, the group strives to stimulate and broaden interest in musical activities and to actively engage in the rehearsal and rendition of choral music.

Parks and outdoor recreational opportunities

This 18-acre (73,000 m2) park has had two lives; first dedicated in 1859 as Sidney Park, named in honor of Algernon Sidney Johnson, a Columbia City Councilman, the park experienced an illustrious but short tenure. The park fell into disrepair after the Civil War and served as a site for commercial ventures until the late 20th century. In 1990, the park was reopened. It serves as the site for such events as Kids Day, The Summer Concert Series, plus many more activities. In 1992, the park was renamed Finlay Park, in honor of Kirkman Finlay, a past mayor of Columbia who had a vision to reenergize the historic Congaree Vista district, between Main Street and the river, and recreate the site that was formerly known as Sidney Park.

Memorial Park is a 4-acre (16,000 m2) tract of land in the Congaree Vista between Main Street and the river. The property is bordered by Hampton, Gadsden, Washington, and Wayne Streets and is one block south of Finlay Park. This park was created to serve as a memorial to those who served their county and presently has monuments honoring the USS Columbia warship and those that served with her during World War II, the China-Burma-India Theater Veterans of WWII, casualties of the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941 who were from South Carolina, Holocaust survivors who live in South Carolina as well as concentration camp liberators from South Carolina, and the State Vietnam War Veterans. The park was dedicated in November 1986 along with the unveiling of the South Carolina Vietnam Monument. In June 2000, the Korean War Memorial was dedicated at Memorial Park.

Granby Park opened in November 1998 as a gateway to the rivers of Columbia, adding another access to the many river activities available to residents. Granby is part of the Three Rivers Greenway, a system of green spaces along the banks of the rivers in Columbia, adding another piece to the long-range plan and eventually connecting to the existing Riverfront Park. Granby is a 24-acre (97,000 m2) linear park with canoe access points, fishing spots, bridges and 1/2 mile of nature trail along the banks of the Congaree River.

In the Five Points district of downtown Columbia is the park dedicated to the legacy and memory of the most celebrated civil rights leader in America, Martin Luther King Jr. Park. Formerly known as Valley Park, it was historically known to be largely restricted to Whites. Renaming the park after Martin Luther King, Jr. in the late 1980s was seen as a progressive and unifying event on behalf of the city, civic groups, and local citizens. The park features a beautiful water sculpture and a community center. An integral element of the park is the Stone of Hope monument, unveiled in January 1996. Upon the monument is inscribed a portion of King's 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: "History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued that self-defeating path of hate. Love is the key to the solutions of the problems of the world."

One of Columbia's greatest assets is Riverbanks Zoo & Garden. Riverbanks Zoo is a sanctuary for more than 2,000 animals housed in natural habitat exhibits along the Saluda River. Just across the river, the 70-acre (280,000 m2) botanical garden is devoted to gardens, woodlands, plant collections, and historic ruins. Riverbanks has been named one of America's best zoos[40] and the #1 travel attraction in the Southeast. It attracted over one million visitors in 2009.

Situated along the meandering Congaree River in central South Carolina, Congaree National Park is home to champion trees, primeval forest landscapes, and diverse plant and animal life. This 22,200-acre (90 km2) park protects the largest contiguous tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the United States. The park is an international biosphere reserve. Known for its giant hardwoods and towering pines, the park’s floodplain forest includes one of the highest canopies in the world and some of the tallest trees in the eastern United States. Congaree National Park provides a sanctuary for plants and animals, a research site for scientists, and a place to walk and relax in a tranquil wilderness setting.

Sesquicentennial State Park is a 1,419-acre (6 km2) park, featuring a beautiful 30-acre (120,000 m2) lake surrounded by trails and picnic areas. The park's proximity to downtown Columbia and three major interstate highways attracts both local residents and travelers. Sesquicentennial is often the site of family reunions and group campouts. Interpretive nature programs is a major attraction to the park. The park also contains a two-story log house, dating back to the mid 18th century, which was relocated to the park in 1969. This house is believed to be the oldest building still standing in Richland County. The park was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Evidence of their craftsmanship is still present today.

In November 1996, the River Alliance proposed that a 12-mile (19 km) linear park system be created to link people to their rivers. This was named the Three Rivers Greenway, and the $18 million estimated cost was agreed to by member governments (the cities of Cayce, Columbia, and West Columbia) with the proviso that the Alliance recommend an acceptable funding strategy.

While the funding process was underway, an existing city of Columbia site located on the Congaree River offered an opportunity to be a pilot project for the Three Rivers Greenway. The Alliance was asked to design and permit for construction by a general contractor this component. This approximately one-half mile segment of the system was opened in November 1998. It is complete with 8-foot (2.4 m) wide concrete pathways, vandal-proof lighting, trash receptacles, water fountains, picnic benches, overlooks, bank fishing access, canoe/kayak access, a public restroom and parking. These set the standards for the common elements in the rest of the system. Eventually, pathways will run from Granby to the Riverbanks Zoo. Boaters, sportsmen, fishermen will have access to the area, and additional recreational uses are being planned along the miles of riverfront.

Running beside the historic Columbia Canal, Riverfront Park hosts a two and a half mile trail. Spanning the canal is an old railway bridge that now is a pedestrian walkway. The park is popular for walking, running, bicycling, and fishing. Picnic tables and benches dot the walking trail. Markers are located along the trail so that visitors can measure distance. The park is part of the Palmetto Trail, a hiking and biking trail that stretches the entire length of the state, from Greenville to Charleston.

Other parks in the Columbia area include:

W. Gordon Belser Arboretum
Maxcy Gregg Park
Hyatt Park
Earlewood Park
Granby Park
Owens Field Park
Guignard Park
Southeast Park
Harbison State Forest

Festivals and annual events

The South Carolina State Fair is held annually in Columbia in the month of October. Rides, food and games attract local and widespread attendants. Exhibits featuring art, crafts, flowers and livestock cover the fairgrounds.

St. Patrick’s Day Festival in Five Points is certainly a Columbia favorite. Held each March, this event features live bands, arts and crafts and a smorgasbord of tasty delights.

Riverfest Celebration is an annual festival held in early spring. The celebration includes a 5K River Run, musical entertainment, arts and crafts and food vendors.

Earth Day at Finlay Park is held each spring. This event brings together environmental booths and vendors as well as traditional festival favorites.

South Carolina Gay & Lesbian Pride will be held the 2nd week of September in 2009 with the main parade and festival on Saturday, September 12. "SC Pride" is held to celebrate the state's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered community and educate the general public regarding the GLBT community and the need for basic civil rights. SC Pride is a weeklong event that includes a film festival, pride pageant and banquet leading up to the Pride Parade and Festival.

Artista Vista has grown from a minor studio showcase in the early 1990s into a draw for artists and collectors alike. While local artists make up the lion's share of the exhibits, Artista Vista has presented works from as far afield as Japan, Romania, and Poland.

Viva La Vista is a food festival in the heart of the Congaree Vista in downtown Columbia. Covering nearly four city blocks, the festival spans Lincoln Street from Lady to Senate and parts of Gervais Street. The event celebrates the fall with live music, beverages, and a taste of The Vista’s most popular restaurants.

The Greek Festival is held annually in September at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Downtown Columbia. Traditional Greek dances, ceremonies, music, theatre, food and beverages are all part of this four-day festival.

The Irmo Okra Strut is a two-day festival held during the last weekend in September. The festival features a street dance, 10 K road race, golf tournament, arts and crafts, rides, food and South Carolina’s largest festival parade.

FamilyFest, formerly known as GospelFest, is a one-day open air concert held in Finlay Park in late spring (usually late May or early June). Attracting tens of thousands of attendees, the concert is sponsored by local Gospel music radio station WFMV and features local and nationally-known Gospel artists.
Eau Claire Renaissance Faire Since its establishment in 1998, this event has become the signature event for the North Columbia neighborhood of Eau Claire. Events during the festival include the Renaissance Parade and an outdoor concert.

Main Street Jazz brings several renowned jazz performers to Columbia each spring.

Vista Lights is held each year in mid-November. Open house walking tours and receptions, entertainment by local musicians and carriage rides through Columbia’s antique district are all highlights of this festival.

Jubilee: Festival of Heritage is a one-day event held at the historic Mann-Sims Cottage to recognize African-American heritage. The festival includes arts and crafts, storytelling and music and dance performances.

Urban Tour, founded in 2007, is a one-day free event held on Main Street designed to help the corridor sustain activity after business hours. The self-guided walking tour includes live entertainment such as street performers and musicians, local artists, a glimpse into downtown living, and stories behind some of Main Street's historic buildings.

Southeastern Piano Festival features aspiring young pianists throughout the country and around the world who perform in recitals and compete in an international competition.

Finlay Park Summer Concert Series is a series of free concerts during the summer in Finlay Park that features performances by artists across a variety of musical genres.

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