This weekend marks the final days of the annual Piccolo Spoleto Festival, the city-sponsored companion to Spoleto Festival USA. Piccolo Spoleto is designed to spread the arts throughout the community. Its 17-day run has featured hundreds of events. If you haven’t had time to attend anything, it’s not too late.
The Piccolo Festival Finale at Hampton Park is 5-10 p.m. Saturday. The park will host a giant outdoor party, free and open to all, as patrons celebrate the closing of the 39th culture-filled festival.
Food trucks will sell tasty morsels and and a picnic area will be provided. Attendees of this family-friendly event are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets, and to enjoy the park setting.
“It’s just absolutely spectacular and beautiful this time of year,” said Scott Watson, director of the city's Office of Cultural Affairs, which organizes and oversees Piccolo Spoleto. “And we have a pretty good footprint out there.”
There also will be live music. This year’s lineup features Sweet Crude, an upbeat band from Louisiana performing vibrant, bilingual music; New Galaxy Band, performing fun and funky covers fusing pop, R&B and soul; and Karoline Rhett, a talented 16-year-old Charleston native.
Ryan Janeiro, the founder and lead vocalist of New Galaxy, said the band will playing soulful music that people can dance to.
“We want to try to have a party out there,” he said. “It’s a first for us and I know we have a lot of new people in town, so it’s a good time for us all to experience Spoleto together.”
If you can’t get enough of New Galaxy at Hampton Park, they will be playing a second show later that evening at Loggerhead's, 123 W. Ashley Ave., Folly Beach.
For Rhett, it will be her first time performing at Piccolo Spoleto. She said she will be singing mostly pop cover songs and a few originals.
“I am so excited to be a part of the finale this year. I love performing in this type of setting,” Rhett said. “Spoleto and Piccolo Spoleto are amazing festivals. ... You can learn and discover so much and it's great family fun no matter what your age.”
Watson said that back in the early days of the two festivals, the city was more like the “wild west” because of clusters of street performers in the market area. The Sunset Serenade concert with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra used to be at 11 p.m. in order to keep things going late into the evening, he said.
“Obviously, as Charleston’s grown up and matured a little bit more in recent decades, we don’t have the same opportunities for people to be busking in the historic district on the commercial and retail streets,” he said. “So, we’re trying to capture that same energy that animated the festival in its early years, and put it out in places where people can see it. We just want to make sure we’re bringing the arts right to the people.”
Watson said one of the most exciting parts of Piccolo Spoleto is learning about what's coming up next, because every day is a chance to see a new play, watch a dance performance, listen to music or be exposed to visual art.
“There aren’t too many tomorrows during Piccolo Spoleto Festival; we have so many shows that are up and done,” he said. “And if you didn’t get in to see, or if something goes wrong at front of house or backstage, we don’t get the chance to do it over. So we want to make sure we’re doing it right.”
Other final events
The Hampton Park finale isn't the only thing left to do this weekend; there are still plenty of shows left to attend.
- Blues music lovers can enjoy a morning at How Art Thou Music Café, 1956 Maybank Highway, as pianist and singer Shrimp City Slim plays “funky slow-burn ballads” at 11:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $12.
- If you’re more of a classical music fan, Noah Vancina will be playing Bach, Purvis and more on the organ at 10 a.m. Friday at Bethel United Methodist Church, 57 Pitt St. This performance is free, but offerings are accepted.
- The Taylor Festival Choir will wrap up the Celtic Art Series with a concert themed around hope and healing. There will be performances at 5 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday at St. Philip’s Church, 142 Church St. Tickets are $17.
- Multiple theater performances also will be presented around town this weekend. On Friday and Saturday you can catch the final shows of “The Biscuiteater”and “Seeger” at Pure Theatre, 477 King St. Tickets are $26.
- Footlight Players Theater, 20 Queen St., hosts “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” a children’s musical theater production, at 1 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $13.
- "The Amen Corner," a play about the role of church in an African-American family, will take place at 4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, also at Footlight. Tickets are $20 for seniors and students and $25 for adults.
- If you’re looking for a good laugh this weekend, you might catch the end of the Piccolo Fringe Festival at Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. All shows have a general admission of $16, and this weekend includes performances of “The Fowler Family Radio Hour,” “Improv Riot,” “Grandpa, Tell Me 'Bout the Good Ol’ Days,” “The Complete History of Charleston for Morons,” and “The Have Nots! And Friends.Go to http://www.theatre99.com/schedule.php for show times.
For more information about these and other events, and to buy tickets, go to piccolospoleto.com.
Kayla Boyd is a Goldring Arts Journalist at Syracuse University. Goldring Arts Journalist Brianna Kirkham contributed to this report.