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{May 14, 2012}   Beats, Bagpipes & Baklava…

South Carolina has long been a melting pot for a variety of nationalities. Just take a stroll down Main Street and you are as likely to hear “Hola”, Bonjour” or “Gutentag” as you are “Hey Y’all”! When the temperatures rise in the Upstate, so do the number of festivals. May is no exception, giving you the opportunity to experience the cultures of West Africa, Greece and the Highlands of Scotland…all without leaving Greenville!

If “the Beat” means drumbeats, word beats or art and dance that will make your heart beat faster, the Emry’s Foundation has got the event for you. Members and non-members alike are invited  to The Kroc Center on Thursday, May 17th to enjoy a spectacular evening of West African cultre and Elements of Rhythm, Art and Verse. This collaborative event strives to demonstrate the many ways in which the written and spoken word unite all genres of art, and features inspiring artwork by April Harrison, impressive rhymes by Unifyed Sol poet, Robert Mullins, Jr (aka Moody Black), passionate African dance by Alisa Caldwell and her Elements of Rhythm dance company and heart-thumping drumbeats provided by the Spirit Beat Drummers. Festivities, which include a buffet style dinner, begin at 7PM and participants are encouraged to dress casually so that they may take part in the fun. Tickets are $25 for students and Kroc members, $35 for non-members and Emrys members are free. For more information on this event and other programs and events sponsored by the Emrys Foundation, visit: www.emrys.org.

The Greeks have known how to throw a party for thousands of years and Greenville’s Grecian community proudly carries on that tradition with their annual Greek Festival. For four fun-filled days (May 17 – 20), Greenville becomes “Greekville” as St. George Greek Orthodox Church becomes a sea of all things Greek. Beginning on Thursday, May 17th, you will be able to satisfy your cravings for souvlaki, gyros and all kinds of yummy Greek pastries as lunch and dinner will be served at the Hellenic Center. Don’t have time to sit down to eat? They have drive-thru service at the Elford Street entrance, so you can get a taste of Greece in minutes. The “glendi” (that’s Greek for party) really starts up on Friday, with an assortment of food, traditional Greek dance and live music. All that dancing will leave you exhausted, so be sure to stop by the Kafenion (Greek Coffee Shop) to recharge your batteries with a steaming cup of Greek coffee and a wedge of delicious baklava, before strolling through the Marketplace to view an assortment of Mediterranean wares.  The festivities continue full swing through the weekend until Sunday evening. Hours are 10:30AM to 8PM (Dining only) Thursday, 10:30AM to 10PM Friday and Saturday,  and 11:30AM to 8PM Sunday. Cost of admission is only $1. For more information, visit: www.stgeorgegreenville.org/GreekFestival.

Not many people have had the chance to see a Scottish Claymore up close…with the exception of some Romans, Vikings, English and anyone else unwise enough to venture into The Highlands uninvited. Visitors to this year’s Greenville Scottish Games will not only be treated to big guys in kilts tossing telephone poles (those are called cabers, BTW) but to demonstrations in sword fighting featuring the fearsome broadsword.  On Saturday, May 26th, the campus at Furman will play host to world-class athletes in 2012 Masters World Championships. On Sunday, amateurs will take the field to flex their muscles and compete in heavy athletics. Competition begins at 8AM both days. Feeling the urge to compete yourself? Then take part in the axe-throwing competiton, which is open to everyone. Afterwards, visit the food tents to taste that Scottish delicacy, haggis (trust me, you really DON’T want to know what’s in it).

Are you more of a lover than a fighter? Take the kids to run amuck in Wee Scotland. Then venture over to the Highland Dancers stage, the British Car Show, to the vendors tents, the Border Collie herding competition or over to the Entertainment tent for some righteous Celtic rock.  If you are lucky, you’ll happen upon a lone piper, preparing for the Piping competition. Speaking of rock, the festivities start Thursday, May 24th as the Scots, in true Highland fashion, invade Downtown Alive, to rock out to the music of the Celtic band, Cleghorn and again on  Friday, May 25th, at Main Street Friday to party to the tunes of Coyote Run and Albannach. At 6PM on Friday, Downtown will be awash in plaid as kilted revelers stroll down Main Street in the Great Scot Parade. The Parade, which grows larger each year,  will feature pipe bands, Scottish military re-enactors, Highland themed floats, Scottish forest fairies and more tartans than you can shake a bagpipe at – all to get the weekend started Highland style! Saturday’s events will wind down with a rockin’ ceildh (that’s Gaelic for party) of a Celtic Jam. For an events schedule, to order tickets and for more information on the Scottish Games, visit: http://gallabrae.com.

As you see, Downtown Greenville offers many opportunities to experience a different culture…no passport required! So dance to African drumbeats, stuff yourself with baklava or release your inner Braveheart! You’ll be all the richer for the experience!

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