Spoleto Festival opens with a bang and a fanfare

Jason Hortin of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dances an excerpt from Pacopepepluto at the 2014 Spoleto opening ceremonies in front of City Hall Friday.

As locals and tourists drifted in front of City Hall, wearing light cotton fabrics, sipping cool drinks and dripping with perspiration under the midday sun, the 2014 Spoleto Festival USA officially commenced.

It was like a U.N. summit of the arts. A brass ensemble of Charleston Symphony Orchestra players filled the air of Broad Street with the sounds of pomp and tradition as veteran attendees shared tales of attractions past.

Both first-time and repeat Spoleto adventurers were excited.

"This is my first Spoleto festival," Katherine Wright, of North Carolina, said. "I just moved to Charleston and I look forward to the sculpture and local art."

Margie Pommer is a veteran festival-goer.

"I've been coming since 1990," Pommer said. "I'm looking forward to the Margaret Mitchell one-woman show with the local girl, Saluda Camp." And even though Pommer has lived in Charleston for over 20 years, she is still fascinated by each year's nearly endless offerings.

A sigh of relief swept through the crowd when the bells rang and a light breeze picked up. As if on cue, the honorary speakers processed up the steps accompanied by Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man."

After a solemn prayer dedicated to celestial creativity and the arts by the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME Church and a state senator, the official welcome commenced.

Carlos E. Evans, chairman of the board for the Spoleto Festival USA, introduced Mayor Joe Riley and the director of the opera "Facing Goya," Ong Keng Sen. Evans, who is stepping down as chairman after the festival, offered thanks to all involved during his tenure.

Ong Keng Sen provided an artist's perspective on the importance of the festival. "To be in this beautiful city of enlightenment, that is the power of Spoleto," he said. "It gives new operas a chance to flourish with intensity and love."

Riley said that the festival is a glowing example of Charleston's spirit.

"I express my annual wish that Spoleto exists in Charleston as long as the citizens strive for excellence in all that we do," Riley said.

And so the 38th Spoleto Festival began. A shot of color and light erupted from the confetti canons. Jason Hortin from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, a featured dance troupe in this year's festival, gave the affair an artistic christening with a lyrical dance set to a Dean Martin tune.

Nick Reichert is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.