downtowngreenvillegirl











(Art, The Bard, Greeks, Great Scots & a little Caribbean Crush…)

It’s still May and despite some decidedly unseasonable weather last week, it’s still one of my favorite times to be Downtown! As the flowers bloom, so does Downtown and she shows off with a whirlwind of events that’ll get you out of your house and down on Main Street! This week’s blog highlights everyone’s favorite Arts festival, some works by the Bard, party with some cool Caribbean vibes, going Greek and a lot of guys in kilts!

To art lovers, Spring means one thing…ARTISPHERE! This weekend, our fair city will play host to this exuberant celebration of the visual and performing arts. Beginning with a fancy Opening Gala at Courtyard by Marriott and Nantucket Grill on Thursday, Artisphere launches into full swing on Friday, May 10th. Featuring not only exhibits from local and regional artisans, this arts extravaganza also spotlights performances from local musicians, theatre groups, dance troupes and other performing artists. Saturday and Sunday’s festivities also include Wine Tasting, Artists’ Demonstrations and Classes, as well as fun events for the kids at Kidsphere. And, since Sunday is Mothers’ Day, this event offers an excellent array of creative gift ideas for Mom. As always, restaurant vendors will be on hand to offer a variety of choices in food, beverage, beer and wine. Hours for this festival are noon -8PM on Friday, 10AM – 8PM on Saturday, and 11AM – 6PM on Sunday. There is no admission to this event held on Main Street and Broad near Falls Park. For more information, visit http://www.Artisphere.us.

Fans of all things flamingoes and flip-flops will LOVE the South Carolina Children’s Theatre’s Annual Fundraiser, Caribbean Crush! This laid-back event featuring Caribbean steel drums, fantastic food, beach drinks and a silent auction has been the talk of the town for the past 6 years. So, don your sunglasses and Hawaiian shirts and join the other Bermuda-shorted partiers at ZEN on Friday, May 17th. The festivities go into full swing at 7PM, with tickets still available for $50 and all proceeds benefitting the many wonderful programs for children and teens the SCCT has to offer. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit http://www.scchildrenstheatre.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 16 – 19), Greenville becomes “Greekville” as St. George Greek Orthodox Church becomes a sea of all things Greek. Beginning on Thursday, May 16th, 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: http://www.stgeorgegreenville.org/GreekFestival.

On Thursday, May 23, the Scots invade Downtown in true Highland fashion to rock out to the music of the Celtic band, Cleghorn (with guests, Smash the Radio and The Greenville Pipes & Drums) at Downtown Alive! Then on Friday evening, Downtown will be awash in plaid as kilted revelers stroll down Main Street in the Great Scot Parade. Starting at 6PM, 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! The Friday festivities will grow to a fevered pitch with a raucous “ceildh” (that’s Gaelic for party)at the Peace Center Amphitheatre, featuring the music of Rathkeltair and Albannach. Want to really release your inner Braveheart? Then join your fellow Gaelic enthusiasts at the 2013 Greenville Scottish Games at Furman on Saturday, May 25. Competition begins at 8AM with evnts such as caber-tossing and piping continuing all day. Afterwards, visit the food tents to taste such Scottish delicacies as haggis (trust me, you really DON’T want to know what’s in it) and to browse through the vendors’ tents featuring goods from the heathered isles. Once again, Saturday’s events will wind down with a rockin’ Celtic Jam. For an events schedule, to order tickets and for more information on the Scottish Games, visit: http://gallabrae.com.

If all the world is a stage, then the stage is definitely set for the Upstate Shakespeare Festival at Falls Park. Every Thursday – Sunday, beginning May 23, Downtown thespians and other fans of a fellow named Shakespeare, will have the chance to experience some of his finest works…with a twist. This season marks the 19th for the festival , which Southern Living has named one of the Best Summer events in the South and attracts over 18,000 each summer. The Festival kicks off with a modern retelling of the action-filled drama, Hamlet (which runs through June 15th) The next in the series, Comedy of Errors will open on July 11th and run through August 3rd. Performances begin at 7PM and are free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://www.warehousetheatre.com/upstate-shakespeare-festival.

So Downtownies…May is practically bursting with fun things to do in the DTGVL! So, why are you still sitting at your computer? Get yourself Downtown and enjoy all it has to offer! See you there!

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Who doesn’t get a little thrill watching the Oscars? The glitz, the glamour, the red-carpet and all those categories! Well, there’s one category Downtownies may want to take notice of…Short Films. Why? Because our very own hometown will have a rare chance to view these Oscar-worthy films in a unique way.

A short film, by the film industry’s definition, is a film that is 40 minutes or less in length. What they lack in duration, they more than make up for in quality, dramatic flair and thought-provoking subjects. This weekend, the Peace Center will play host to their first ever “Oscar Shorts Film Festival”.  Movie lovers will have the opportunity to view the Short Film nominees from three categories – live action, animation and documentary.

The three day long festival will begin Thursday, February 21 with the screening of the Live Action nominees. The films range in content and subject matter and are from such wide-flung countries as Belgium, Afghanistan and Somalia. Included are films that portray people from every walk of life – from  the adventures of a young man attempting  to manage his pre-teen niece in “Curfew”,   to “Asad” and “Buzkashi Boys”, coming of age stories set in the war-torn countries of Somalia and Afghanistan, and from a Canadian pianist struggling to deal with the sudden disappearance of his beloved in “Henry” to a tale of second chances in “Death of a Shadow”, the story of a young soldier who finds his shadow imprisoned by an eccentric collector.    

Friday will play host to screenings of the nominees in the Animation category.  Fans of “The Simpsons” will be delighted to see Maggie Simpson in her latest adventures at Ayn Rand Day Care in “The Longest Daycare”. “Adam and Doc” tells the story of the first dog in creation and delves into his relationship with the First man,  “Guacamole” is a campy look at how to turn everyday objects into guacamole and “Paperman” tells the story of a lonely NYC man trying desperately to catch the attention of a pretty young woman, using only his imagination and a stack of papers.  In addition to these wonderful animated shorts, three other award-winning films will also be shown on Friday – “The Gruffalo’s Child”, “Abiogenesis” and “Dripped”.

Saturday’s screenings will feature nominees in the Documentary category and, true to form, cover a variety of thought-provoking topics. “Redemption” is the story of poor NYC “dumpster divers” who comb through others’ discarded trash in order to survive, while “Innocente” features a young artist seeking to show the new face of homelessness in America. “Open Heart” follows eight Rwandan children who have left their homes and families to receive high-risk heart surgery in Sudan. “King’s Point” gives us a glimpse into the lives of five senior citizens in Florida and “Mondays at Racine” shares the wonderful work done by a Long Island hair salon that offers a unique service to women undergoing chemotherapy.  

The screenings begin at 7PM on Thursday and Friday and 3PM on Saturday afternoon. Tickets are available at The Peace Center Box Office for $10 per series. For more information, call 864-467-3000 or visit www. Peacecenter.org.

 



This past Friday evening, hundreds of people of all ages, races, religions and socio-economic standing came together to honor the memory of one man…Dr. Martin Luther King. Falls Park in Downtown Greenville was awash with goodwill and unity as participants celebrated Dr. King’s legacy as part of the “MLK Dream Weekend”.  Made up of business and civic leaders committed to Dr. King’s cause, this grassroots organization encourages others to “live his dream”. This Thursday, January 17, the Hyatt Regency will host the 8th Annual MLK Diversity Banquet and Celebration, with keynote speaker, Nikki Giovanni.  Ms. Giovanni, a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator, has brought attention to the Civil Rights of others for more than three decades through her outspokenness in writing and lectures. The event begins at 7PM and although tables are currently sold out, there are some individual tickets available at $60 each. For more information and ticket availability, please call 864-990-1060.

Upstate residents are also encouraged to spread Dr. King’s message through a “MLK Day of Community Service”. In conjunction with Hands on Greenville, organizers have coordinated a variety of volunteer opportunities – from beautifying lower-income neighborhoods to delivering Meals on Wheels for the elderly and homebound. The majority of these volunteer events will take place Saturday, January 19, from 9AM until noon. Families, friends and community groups can sign up to volunteer together.  For more information,  www.handsongreenville.org.

The celebration will conclude Monday, January 21 with “Dreams in Action” at Greenville High School. This event, whose mission is to spread Dr. King’s message of positive change, will begin at 8AM with a light breakfast which will be followed by the production of “One Voice” with JDew. An exceptional narrative highlighting orations from some of America’s most influential black leaders, “One Voice” is a fascinating journey through the black American experience, by virtue of eight powerful and influential voices spanning from the 1820s to present day including: Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, Bill Cosby, and Barack Obama. For more information on this and other MLK Dream Weekend events, visit www.mlkdreamweekend.com.

The Peace Center will also be paying homage to Dr. King and his dream with their production of “I Have a Dream”.  Part of the center’s nationally recognized arts initiative, Peace Outreach Programs (for students grades 3-12), this compelling dramatization of the life and times of one of the most influential and charismatic leaders of the Civil Rights movement is certain to inspire young minds as they experience this great leader’s struggle and his dream of lifting “our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood”. Tickets are $9 with 10AM and noon show times on both January 23 and 24. For more information, visit www.peacecenter.org.

A must-see for locals and visitors alike is the Greenville Cultural Exchange Center, located at 700 Arlington Avenue. Founded in 1987 by Ruth Ann Butler, a former history teacher and participant in Greenville’s Civil Rights Movement, this African American history museum and cultural center is dedicated to the preservation of Greenville’s rich multi-cultural diversity, contributions and accomplishments. The Center provides a haven of historical reflection, research and education through exhibits, archives and guided tours. The Resource Center contains biographical sketches, news articles, tape recordings, photographs, and letters of prominent African-Americans, available to visiting scholars, students, and the general public.

A trip Downtown on MLK Day would not be complete without a visit to the corner of Washington and Main Streets in Downtown Greenville. This seemingly ordinary street corner, which is currently the site of building projects, played a remarkable and very important role in Greenville’s Civil Rights Movement. This was once the home of the Woolworth’s building and was the site of “sit-ins” and student protests against segregation in the 1960’s.  Many of the students involved, including Greenville native, Rev. Jesse Jackson and museum curator, Ruth Ann Butler, attended Sterling High School. A memorial to these courageous students now stands on the site. The life-size statue by artist Maria Kirby Smith depicts two African American students (a young man and a young woman), walking down the steps from Sterling High. The site also contains a memorial marker honoring Sterling High itself, which burned in 1967.

To learn more about Greenville’s role in the Civil Rights Movement and the rich history of her African-American community, here are more places you may want to visit:

Site of The Working Benevolent Temple: Located at the corner of Broad and Falls Streets, this unassuming building was once the home of the Working Benevolent Temple. Constructed in 1922, this 3-story, brick building played a vital role in the development of Greenville’s African American business district for over 50 years by providing office space to many of the community’s professionals. It was designed, built and financed by the Working Benevolent Grand State Lodge of South Carolina, a health, welfare and burial benefit society.

John Wesley United Methodist Church: Located next to the site of the Working Benevolent Temple, on Falls Street.  Organized in 1866 by Rev. James Rosewood, a former slave, this church was one of South Carolina’s first independent African American congregations after the Civil War. The current church was built between the years of 1899 and 1903 and is an excellent example of the Gothic Revival style. John Wesley Methodist has long been the epicenter of Greenville’s religious community and, along with the Working Benevolent Temple, is on the National Register of Historic Places

Richland Cemetery: Located on Stone Avenue, near North Main. In stark contrast to the elegant opulence of nearby Springwood Cemetery, this small area is the simple yet dignified final resting place of some of Greenville’s most prominent African American citizens. Many of the graves contain no markers or homemade gravestones, while others are marked by stones proudly proclaiming the person’s accomplishments and status in the community.  This quiet, peaceful site is a reflective conclusion to your historical tour.



C.S. Lewis once said, “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”  This month, Downtown Greenville offers many ways in which to enrich your life with the literary talents of local professional and amateur writers alike.

Throughout the Fall, students from several area schools have worked with acclaimed poet and performer, Glenis Redmond as part of the Peace Center’s “Artist-in-Residence” program. The result is “Peace Voices” –a special youth performance in which these young artists share their thoughts, dreams and imaginations through their original poetry.  Ms. Redmond, who is herself an autobiographical poet, will share her own work and well as the literary creations of her young novices. This special performance will take place at The Peace Center’s Gunter Theatre at 7PM on Tuesday, January 8. This is a free event, but tickets are required. For more information, visit www.peacecenter.org or call the box office at 467-3000.

The Upcountry History Museum has partnered with the Greenville Library System to present a collection of tales reflecting the rich storytelling traditions of the Upstate.  In this series of four Tuesday performances, some of the area’s most compelling writers and literary artists will share how their work is colored by our region. The series begins with a presentation of poetry by Vera Gomez on Tuesday, January 8.  The series will continue with performances by non-fiction author, Dot Jackson on the 15th, fiction writer, George Singleton on the 22nd and finishing with poet Glenis Redmond on the 29th. All performances will take place from 6:30-8:30 PM at the Hughes Main Library. This event is free to the public but registration is required. For more information, visit www.greenvillelibrary.org or call 527-9293.

Every Sunday evening at 7:30PM, Coffee Underground comes alive with the spoken words and righteous rhymes of their “Wit’s End” Coffee & Poetry. Hosted by the Unified Sol Poets, poets of all experience and skill levels are invited to read and perform their own original works in this longest running poetry series in the state. The series is wrapped up each month with a Poetry Slam on the last Sunday of each month. The cost is $5 with registration starting at 7PM. For more information, visit www.witsendpoetry.com.

After attending some of these events, you may feel compelled to do a little writing of your own. The Emry’s Foundation, together with Hub City of Spartanburg, are once again partnering to encourage writers in their annual Creative Writing Contest. The contest has two categories – excellence in poetry and excellence in fiction. Winners of each category will receive a full scholarship to Wildacres Writers Workshop – a week-long creative writing summer school in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Second and third place contestants will receive scholarships to Hub City’s summer workshop, “Writing in Place” at Wofford College. All entries must be received by February 1, 2013 and you must be 18 or older to enter. For more information, visit www.emrys.org.

Whether you are a professional journalist, a blogger like myself, a colorful storyteller or a soulful poet, Downtown Greenville can offer many creative opportunities for literary artists.  From a commentary on daily life to a poem about the gnarled roots of a familiar tree, Downtown Greenville can excite and inspire the creative juices in us all. Take a walk around our fair city, and you may feel inspired to wax poetic yourself!

 



I remember how excited I would get when the local TV stations would start adding such Holiday classics as “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” to their December programming schedule. I loved it when George Bailey ran through the town of Bedford Falls, yelling “Merry Christmas” or when the postal carriers brought bags of mail addressed to Santa Claus to be delivered to Kris Kringle, during his sanity trial. But, as beloved as these moments are on the small screen, they are truly memorable when you get the opportunity to see them performed live onstage by some of Greenville’s most talented actors!

Perhaps no story signals the start of the Holiday season as much as “It’s a Wonderful Life”. On everyone’s list of Holiday favorites, this time-honored story of George Bailey and his journey of self-realization will be performed at the Greenville Little Theatre starting December 7 and run through December 16. Performances take place at 8PM every Thursday through Saturday evening, with Sunday matinee performances at 3PM.  Tickets range from $20 to $30. For more information, visit www.greenvillelittletheatre.org.

Running a close second on the list of Holiday family favorites, in my opinion anyway, has to be “Miracle on 34th Street”. This tale of a little girl’s disbelief in Santa has been retold several times on the big screen and is enjoying a creative revival onstage. Currently performed every Thursday through Sunday at Centre Stage, this production will run until December 22. Performances are at 8PM, with the exception of Sunday performances, which are at 3PM. Tickets range from $15 to $30 and can be purchased through http://centrestage.org.

The South Carolina Children’s Theatre is offering its own version of a childhood twist on a popular Christmas carol. Junie B. and her first grade classmates are back again in “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells”.  With weekend performances at the Peace Center Gunter Theatre (from now until December 16), this hilarious sing-a-long will delight kids and kids at heart! Performances are at 7PM on Fridays, 1:30PM on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $26 for adults and $17 for children under 18.  For more information, see http://scchildrenstheatre.org.

The Warehouse Theatre is offering a “plethora” of Holiday stories, certain to become classics. The first is the kid-friendly, “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t”. This delightful musical, adapted from Odgen Nash’s poem of the same name, will be performed starting December 7 at 6:30PM on Thursdays and Fridays and 3PM on Saturdays and Sundays.  Performances run through December 29 and tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children under the age of 15. Adults needn’t feel left out of the Holiday fun…WHT has something for you too! Two short plays by David Sedaris, “Santaland Diaries” and “Season’s Greetings” offer a cheeky, and definitely adult, look at the Holiday season and are based on Sedaris’ own experiences with his family and as one of Santa’s Elves at Macy’s in NYC. Performances of these two “tongue definitely in cheek” comedies begin December 7 and run until the 29th. Thursday & Friday performances will take place at 8:30PM with Saturday and Sunday performances taking place at 8PM. Tickets are $30 and these performances are for adults only. For more information on these and other performances, visit www.warehousetheatre.com.

Café & Then Some can always be counted on for tickling our satirical funny bone and the Holidays are no exception! Norma Jean invites you to join her and her “over-extended” family as they stumble through the real meaning of Christmas in “Merry Christmas, Y’all”.  Performances of this dinner theatre take place every Wednesday through Saturday, with the CATS crew taking the stage around 8PM-ish. Come early for dinner, which is served from 6:30-7:30PM. Tickets are $18 (for the show only) and reservations are strongly recommended. For more information, to purchase tickets or make reservations, visit www.cafeats.com.

So there you have it…A little something for everyone! Why wait for TBS or TCM to run these Holidays favorites on TV, when you can see them performed live. Holiday entertainment from the family-friendly to the not-so-family friendly…and from the classic to the future cult classics. Whatever you are in the mood for this Holiday season, chances are, it’s on a stage near you in Downtown Greenville. Happy Holidays, Y’all!



{November 27, 2012}   It’s Christmastime in the City…

Well Downtownies…the Thanksgiving dinner has been consumed, Black Friday deals have been had & you’ve gotten carpel tunnel syndrome from all the online shopping during Cyber Monday…so, what’s next? If you are a parent, keeping the little ones (& not-so-little ones) entertained can be a bit daunting – especially with the 2-week long Holiday break looming in the near future. But not to fret, my fellow DTGVL parental units, Downtown Greenville offers many excellent events for kids of all ages, sure to keep you & your family on Santa’s NICE list!

Ask any Downtownie & they will tell you nothing kicks off the Holiday season like the Greenville Poinsettia Parade & the Christmas Tree Lighting. This year’s city Tree Lighting takes place 5:30PM on Saturday, December 1 at City Hall before the parade. Then the floats and marching bands roll out at 6PM, starting at River Street & continuing down Main, ending at  E. North Street. A favorite for all ages, families often make a day of it – taking in the sights and sounds of Downtown Greenville, before settling in at a spot along the parade route, hot chocolate or apple cider in hand.  For more information and a map of the parade route, visit www.greenvillesc.gov.

Speaking of kid-friendly fun, The Children’s Museum plans several Holiday craft projects for little creative hands and minds to keep busy during the month of December.  From designing Christmas Ornaments, to crafting Tissue Holiday Trees and mixing up Reindeer Food, there will be so much going on that you may actually make it through the Holiday season without hearing “I’m bored” even once!  The Children’s Museum’s Holiday celebration culminates with their “Breakfast with Santa & Mrs. Claus” event on Saturday, December 15. Visit www.tcmupstate.org for more information.

Not to outdone on the Holiday fun, the Hughes Main Library has its own calendar of Holiday happenings for kids. From the craft projects at Kindercraft & InBetween classes, to  the Holiday Open House Party for kids 5 & under (Thursday, November 29 at 10:30AM) and  Santa’s Christmas Party with the Columbia Marionettes  for ages 4 & up (Friday, December 7, 10-11AM), there are tons of fun for the kids. They can even explore Holiday traditions from other countries through the Library’s “Explore Your World” program on December 4. For more information on this and other Library events,  call 527-9248.

Are your kids into music, theatre & dance? Then these events will certainly jingle their bells! The Greenville Museum of Art will be hosting the Greenville Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Lollipops Concert for Kids on Saturday, December 8. The concert begins at 11AM and is followed by a Holiday Party at 2PM. This event is free to the public. For more info, see www.greenvillemuseum.org. The South Carolina Children’s Theatre is hosting its own Holiday Pajama Party on Wednesday, December 19 from 6:30-7:30PM. This Milk & Cookies themed event will feature a Holiday story time served up with…you guessed it …Santa’s favorite snack –  milk & cookies. The cost is $10 per child (adults are free) with pre-registration required at http://scchildrenstheatre.org. Ballet fans will have two opportunities to see “The Nutcracker” performed by two amazing ballet troupes at the Peace Center. The Carolina Ballet will be performing this time-honored favorite on November 30 – December 2 and the International Ballet will be performing it December 7-9. If your family prefers to see a theatrical performance of a Holiday classic, then catch “Miracle on 34th Street” performed at Centre Stage (http://centrestage.org)November 22 – December 22, “It’s a Wonderful Life” at The Greenville Little Theatre (www.greenvillelittletheatre.org) December 7-16, “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t” at The Warehouse Theatre (www.warehousetheatre.com) December 7-29, and a play inspired by that favorite childhood twist on the classic Christmas carol – “Junie B in Jingle Bells Batman Smells” with the South Carolina Children’s Theatre (http://scchildrenstheatre.org) at the Peace Center , November 30-December 16.

The Holiday season in Downtown Greenville offers even more opportunities for families to catch the Holiday Spirit. From Horse Drawn Carriage Rides from Whispering Winds (www.downtowncarriage.com), to ice Skating at Ice on Main in the Village Green (www.iceonmain.com) and the St Francis Festival of Trees at various hotels downtown, there is something for everyone throughout December. So, whatever you celebrate this Holiday season, spend some of it in our lovely, festive Downtown. Happy Holidays, Y’all!

For a list of Holiday Happenings taking place in Downtown Greenville, visit http://www.facebook.com/note.php?saved&&note_id=427455850642353&id=371197456807



I remember the first time I experienced Downtown Greenville. Although I lived in Georgia, I had family in the Upstate and often spent part of my summer vacation here. I was about 6 or 7 and had come Downtown with my aunts to visit some local antique stores.  I remember the tall red brick buildings against the Carolina blue sky and the parking meters where colorfully dressed women stood and waved as we drove by. My aunts pointed out the Poinsett Hotel and told me that was where their proms were held…which seemed odd to me, since it looked empty and abandoned at the time. I remember the sweet, musty smell of the antique stores that were owned by local people with names like Townes, Pinkney and McBee, who took time to chat with us and share the history of the various items in the shop. I also remember how important it was to my aunts that we leave before it got dark. Although they offered no explanation, in my child’s mind, I imagined that Downtown Greenville was a magical place that could only been seen at special times and disappeared at the end of the day – rather like the town in the movie “Brigadoon”, which I had seen on TV the week before.  As we drove away from town, I looked back for a last glimpse of the city that would become so important to me years later.

When I was in high school, my parents and I moved to the Upstate. I was eager to visit Downtown to see if it still retained the same magic it held that first visit years before.  As soon as I could, I found my way to Main Street.  The 4 lane street had changed to two, now flanked by sidewalks and shade trees. The parking meters and flamboyant women were gone, as were many of the antique stores – replaced by vintage clothing stores, coffee houses and charming cafes, each more interesting than the previous one (and MUCH more interesting than anything I saw at the mall), most still locally owned by “old family” Greenvillians and new residents alike. Downtown was also home to a fledgling arts and theatre community featuring not only The Peace Center, but many new theatres and art galleries (also locally owned and operated) that had moved into formerly vacant storefronts. With older, almost adult eyes, I now saw some of the cracks in Downtown’s mystic (and why my aunts were so eager to get home before dark), but that didn’t lessen the fascination it held for me.  There was an excitement Downtown – a bohemian independence, a determined uniqueness, a promise of what could be. My new hometown had come a long way, but still had a ways to go and I was eager to be a part of its bright future.

Where am I going with this walk down memory lane? When many of the large retailers moved out of Downtown in the 1960’s and 70’s to re-establish themselves in malls and shopping centers, it was local “Mom & Pop” establishments that moved in.  It was the same unique local businesses that kept Downtown from dying entirely and fiercely independent local business owners who shared the inspiration and vision that made our award-winning Main Street what it is today. It was an eclectic group of local businesspeople who helped re-develop the West End and a “motley crew” of wonderfully eccentric local characters that are making the North End a fun and funky destination.

I understand that “big business” and chain stores are important to the economy. They provide employment, commerce and convenience to local residents. They can also sap an area of its distinctiveness and make it look like “Anywhere, USA”.  Small, locally owned businesses are the lifeblood to a place like Downtown Greenville. Their owners are vested in the community – they are our friends, family and neighbors. They present products created locally and add an unmistakable flavor that can only be found in the Upstate. Ask yourself, would you rather have a plain pair of earrings that can be found at any department store or a pair hand-crafted from recycled materials by a local artisan from Green-Eyed Girls Boutique? Buy a CD by the latest trendy pop star, or classics by local blues legends found on vinyl at Horizon Records? Have dinner at a chain restaurant with an inoffensive menu, or a twist on a Carolina classic prepared by a southern chef using locally grown produce? I thought so…

Now I am not saying we should do away with chain stores entirely. But we should do all we can to support our local small business owners. Next time you are in the market for a particular item…be it a new shirt or just a cup of coffee as you run your errands…consider stopping by a locally owned business first. Not only will you find some truly exceptional items, you’ll probably meet some pretty exceptional people too! And our local economy will be all the better for it!

Today, Downtown Greenville boasts a thriving arts and theatre community, locally owned restaurants with menus worthy of those found in NYC, LA and even Europe, funky little shops with a Boho vibe and an electrifying nightlife with music venues featuring phenomenal local and regional talent. I now think I understand the secret to Downtown’s mystic. She is a modern Southern Belle – gracious and inviting by day, making her friends and guests feel happy, warm and welcome. But she does not retreat when the sun goes down…far from it! At night, she lets her hair down, puts on her party dress and celebrates life with a “joie di vive” that is all her own. This is my Downtown Greenville – traditional and funky, gracious and fearless, social and independent, but most of all, not quite like any other place on Earth, and I am so glad to call it home!



We all know that Downtown Greenville is so picturesque, that it looks almost like a movie set. And it has been cast in a major role as background for several area commercials and indie films as well as being a gracious hostess to numerous stars of the big and little screen, including Renee Zellweger and George Clooney. But now DTGVL is taking a place behind the camera to play host to its first ever International Film Festival.

The 2012 International Film Festival will be held at various Downtown locations starting April 25th with an Opening Ceremony and Soiree at ZEN. The festival will feature about 50 independent films from all over the US and the world. Films range from short documentaries and narrative shorts to animated films and “green” films. The directorial talent ranges from international filmmakers to students to up-and-coming filmmakers – including local filmmaker, James Wiley of Riverside High. Films are shown in “Blocks” of 4 – 6 films in a 2-3 hour period. Coffee Underground, ZEN, The Kroc Center and The Upcountry History Museum are among the venues that will be hosting these events. Tickets for these screenings are $10. Tickets for other festival events range from $25 – $40 per event – or you can purchase a VIP Festival Pass, which gives you access to all events, for $99. For a list of featured films, screening times and ticket information, visit: www.gviff.com.

Centre Stage and ZEN will also offer various workshops hosted by award winning professionals from the film industry.  Topics range from “The Art of the Documentary” (hosted by Emmy winner, Harvey Hubbell V) to “Digital Filmmaking Tools” (with Academy award winner, Dr. Jerry Tessendorf).  The cost for these intensive workshops ranges from $25 – $30. Not to be left out, Warehouse Theatre offers its own homage to the film-making industry with “The Importance of Film and Movies in our American Lives”. As part of their WHT Forum Series, this engaging dialogue is centered around one of the Warehouse Theatre’s mainstage productions: “39 Steps”. The forum takes place on Wednesday, April 25 at 6PM and is free and open to the public.

If you find that you can’t get enough film after the Film Festival…not to worry. The Peace Center offers an array of film features for movie enthusiasts. Their “Downtown Films” series offers locals and visitors alike the chance to see films you can’t see anywhere else – from the hottest independent films, acclaimed foreign features, and beloved cinema classics. Digital surround sound and HD, not to mention the availability of beer and wine, make your viewing experience even better. The next film screening, “Monsieur Lazhar” (a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee) is scheduled for May 24th. Tickets are $9 with general admission seating. Opera and ballet aficionados need not feel left out – the Peace Center has thought of you as well. Their “Opera and Ballet in Cinema” Series features live performances and encore presentations of beloved classics from the worlds of opera and ballet – performed by the greatest artists of our time. Next on the schedule are the opera “Rigoletto” from the Royal Opera House in London on May 13th and “La Fille Mal Gardee”, a live streaming performance from the London Royal Ballet. Tickets for these screenings are $20. For a full schedule of both “Downtown Films” and “Opera and Ballet in Cinema”, visit: www.peace center.org.

If your budget favors something more on the “Free” side, don’t fret. Starting in May, Downtown Greenville will again be playing host to Moonlight Movies every Wednesday. This free, outdoor screening of beloved family and classic movies will take place at Falls Park around 8PM-ish. The series starts with a screening of “The Muppet Movie” on May 2nd. Lawn chairs, blankets and picnics are welcome, but like most city-sponsored events, pets are not allowed. For more information, visit: http://www.greenvillesc.gov/PublicInfo_Events/MoonlightMovies.aspx

Other venues in Downtown Greenville offer opportunities to see a variety of indie and classic films as well. Coffee Underground often shows screenings of indie films in their private theater. The Upstate History Museum also plays host to movie screenings of films that have historical significance. The schedule varies so check with the venues for more information.

So, as you see, Downtown Greenville gives movie lovers of all types a diversity of opportunities to see films they might otherwise not have a chance to see. So, gather up your fellow film fanatics to view something other than your run-of-the-mill blockbuster movie. You’ll be glad you did!



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