South African dance? Check. Czech opera as interpreted by an Irish director? Check. Finnish and Australian circus acts? Check and check. Now it's time for a bit of Charleston.
If you go
WHAT: Spoleto Festival Finale with Shovels & Rope
WHEN: Gates open at 3:30 p.m. today, concert begins at 8:30 p.m.
WHERE: Middleton Place, 4300 Ashley River Road, Summerville (14 miles from downtown)
COST: $35 day of event, $15 for children 6-12
MORE INFO: spoletousa.org, (843) 579-3100
For its final blowout, the Spoleto Festival USA is capping off 17 days of arts and culture with a finale tailored specifically to draw in the local crowd. The evening will feature a beer garden featuring the craft beverages of area breweries, music from three local bands, fireworks and a performance by Charleston's own Shovels & Rope.
Once again, Middleton Place will play host to the finale, as it has since the festival's very beginning in 1977. Middleton Foundation Vice President Tracey Todd said he enjoys working with Spoleto each year.
"It's a Spoleto and Middleton tradition now," he said. "The Middleton family has always been interested in the arts and culture. It's a perfect fit because it's a national and historic landmark, and home of Arthur Middleton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence."
For more than 30 years, the East Festival Orchestra performed to finish the festival. Then, in 2010, the festival deviated from its usual plan and booked the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
Spoleto Festival marketing and public relations manager Jessie Bagley said the change was well received. "People enjoyed dancing and having a good time," she said. "It was a different atmosphere than people were used to."
Following this new trend, this year's mainstage concert will feature Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, the husband-and-wife duo better known as Shovels & Rope. Their rustic folk-rock sound gained wider attention last year when they appeared on "Late Show With David Letterman" and then received recognition as an emerging band at the 2013 Americana Music Honors & Awards.
As a result, Bagley said, "I think we're predicting record sales this year with Shovels & Rope, weather permitting."
They aren't the only local feature. With five hours between the opening of the gates and the main show, there's plenty of time for three local bands (Roger Bellow and the Drifting Troubadour, Megan Jean & the KFB and Rayland Baxter) to play sets, from about 4 to 7 p.m.
The beer garden opens at 3:30 p.m. and offers some of Charleston's brews, as well as picnic food. Guests are encouraged to enjoy the beer garden, but they can also bring their own picnic, tour the gardens or just enjoy sitting under the oaks.
While the festival organizers have contingency plans for rain, the finale is the one outdoor Spoleto event that goes on no matter the weather.
"We call it a rain-or-shine event," Bagley said. "I think it was two years ago that it rained, and people had a great time dancing in the rain."
Todd said it's the festive atmosphere and human interaction he likes best.
"It's being able to come and spread your blanket out and spend time with friends and family and enjoy a Lowcountry afternoon," he said. "The music and fireworks are just the icing on the cake."
Nicholas Schmiedicker is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.