Family fun abounds at Piccolo

Colleen Goidel, of the Seed and Feed Marching Abominable, danced with Piccolo Spoleto patrons last year in Marion Square. Paul Zoeller/Staff

From princesses to superheroes, from marching bands to operas, the Piccolo Spoleto festival is back. And, a substantial number of its more than 500 events are designed for the younger festivalgoers.

Family-oriented activities are the heart of Piccolo, according to Scott Watson, director of Charleston’s Office of Cultural Affairs. Watson began looking at the programing through new eyes when he became a parent during the last weekend of the 2013 festival, he said.

He is looking forward to Family Day at Marion Square, which starts today at 10 a.m. “There is everything from hands-on participation to doing a craft or learning a dance step to be a part of a celebration,” Watson said.

Among the draws at Family Day is the lively and colorfully costumed Seed and Feed Marching Abominable. This Atlanta community band has travelled to Charleston for the opening of the festival for the last 23 years, and the all-volunteer organization is looking for a lot of audience participation. It will also be performing the Midnight Pajama March at 11 p.m. tonight and its Patriotic Concert at noon Sunday on the steps of the U.S. Custom House.

The Charleston County Public Library on Calhoun Street is a pinata of exciting children’s programming, including the Charleston City Ballet’s “The Velveteen Rabbit” and College of Charleston Opera’s “Little Red Riding Hood,” according to Children’s Services Manager Pam Cadden.

“We have the ballet and the opera every year,” Cadden said. “They are Piccolo traditions. The kids are already familiar with many of the stories they perform, but it’s a great way to introduce them to different artistic disciplines.”

Making its Piccolo debut this year is the Healing Force, a traveling family, that shares African culture through performance. They will play traditional African instruments to accompany stories in a June 3 event at the library called “The Rhythm of the Drum.”

The library is offering six days of free programming and has had such high attendance over the years that it now hosts three performances a day. It also simulcasts each performance into its children’s department for families with strollers and squirming toddlers who prefer not to sit for the duration of a performance in the library’s auditorium.

More outdoor activities are planned for May 30, including the sand castle competition at the Isle of the Palms and the Carifest Children’s Carnival, which will include a youth parade making its way from Ann Street to Marion Square at 11 a.m.

Free pop-up events will also take place in Charleston’s parks throughout the duration of the festival and will be announced on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

“At this point, 37 years on, Piccolo is a generational phenomenon,” Watson said. “We have parents bringing their children to have experiences comparable to what they had when they were kids growing up in Charleston.”

For program details, go to www.piccolospoleto.com.

Lauren Cavalli is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.