Marion Square rocks to Piccolo Spoleto heartbeat

Akenti Lincoln, 3, of Summerville, dances Saturday next to Shani Qua Gaie of the Wona Womalan African Dance and Drumming group at the Piccolo Spoleto Children’s Festival.

While Marion Square is located in the heart of downtown Charleston, it felt like the heart of the entire Lowcountry on Saturday, pulsating with activities of the Piccolo Spoleto Children’s Festival, the Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Art Exhibit and the Charleston Farmer’s Market.

Add some unusually cool and dry weather for late May and many were reluctant to leave the festivities. People poured into the park and lingered.

Surrounding sidewalks were filled, and cars were backed up in nearly all directions.

Music filled the air and impromptu “acro yogis” added to the circus atmosphere, a fitting colorful first Saturday of the Spoleto Festival and Piccolo Spoleto Festival.

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley welcomed the crowd after the Wona Womalan African Dance and Drumming group finished a performance with kids and parents dancing on the main stage.

“The theme of this year’s Children’s Festival is ‘Reaching for the Stars,’ and that’s why we have this festival — to allow our children to reach for the stars,” said Riley, noting that every child is born with creative potential that needs to be fostered.

Besides a main stage featuring often-interactive performing artists, booths scattered throughout Marion Square offered an array of hands-on visual and musical art opportunities.

At the Chamber Music Charleston, Quinn Conway, 14, introduced the flute to 9-year-old Sophie Goller-Deitsch, who plays violin.

Sophie quickly realized that there was more to the flute than she had imagined.

“I thought it would be easy, but it wasn’t,” she said, adding that she’s sticking with the violin.

At another booth put up by Fear No Easel, friends Street Wilson and Perrin O’Kelley, both 6, were putting the finishing touches on paintings of the Eiffel Tower. The Mount Pleasant-based business let children paint for free.

Meanwhile, hundreds of kids had their hands involved in a painting wall put up by Publix supermarket. Libby Hansel, 3, of West Ashley was mesmerized by the Zephyr, a fairy played by Marji Pulliam that was walking around the park handing out acorn cap whistles and sprinkling magic dust in the hands of children.

“Right now, she (Libby) loves fairies and princesses, especially Tinker Bell,” said Libby’s mom, Laura Hansel.

Midway through the festival, a flamboyant band — the Seed and Feed Marching Abominable of Atlanta — added even more excitement marching through the park and getting kids to join in a parade.

While the Children’s Festival is over, the activities at Piccolo geared toward children are not.

Every day at the Charleston County Library, located on Calhoun Street, there are cultural events for children. Also, next Saturday at the Isle of Palms beach, is the 25th annual Piccolo Spoleto Sand Sculpture Competition, which has a children’s division.

For more events geared for children and families, go to