The Spoleto Festival USA entered the final weekend of its 17-day run today with strong ticket sales despite the troubled economy.

Festival spokeswoman Paula Edwards said if the weather holds, the festival should meet or surpass its $2.6 million ticket goal by the time it closes Sunday.

The weather is important because the festival closes with its traditional outdoor concert and fireworks at Middleton Place Plantation on the Ashley River.

This season, instead of an orchestral concert, the festival is offering a performance by the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The group plays fiddle and banjo music from the piedmont region of the Carolinas.

The forecast calls for highs in the 90s through Sunday with a chance of a stray thundershower each day.

Spoleto featured over 140 performances and included a revival of "Flora," the first opera performed in the American colonies.

Ticket sales have been brisk throughout the festival, Edwards said.

"Present Laughter," the Noel Coward comedy performed by Dublin's Gate Theater, was one of the best-attended shows.

Tickets also sold well for concerts by The Ebony Hillbillies -- black musicians who play, among other things, bluegrass, jazz, blues, rockabilly and country -- as well as the closing weekend performances by Inbal Pinto and the Avshalom Pollack Dance Company, she said.

Last year, despite a troubled economy, Spoleto surpassed its $2.2 million ticket sales goal. This year's Spoleto budget of about $6.3 million is up slightly from $6.2 million last season.

This year's season brought the resignation of the festival's longtime director for opera and orchestra and saw audiences return to a renovated Dock Street Theatre.

Emmanuel Villaume is leaving after 10 years with the festival.

Villaume, the artistic director and chief conductor of the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra and chief conductor of the Slovak Philharmonic, said he was leaving because of commitments in Europe.

The Dock Street, on the site of America's first theater, reopened last spring after an $18 million renovation.

During the festival, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley announced plans to renovate another venue used by Spoleto. He proposed a $142 million makeover of the city's Gaillard Municipal Auditorium to create a world-class performing arts center.

The public-private plan calls for reducing the number of seats from 2,700 to 1,800, renovating the auditorium's exhibition hall and adding city offices at one side of the structure. The plan is to have the new building open in 2014.

The Spoleto Festival USA was established in Charleston in 1977 by composer Gian Carlo Menotti.

Menotti, who modeled the festival after his "Festival of Two Worlds" in Spoleto, Italy, severed his ties with the Charleston festival in 1993. He died three years ago.