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May has to be one of the nicest months to spend in Downtown Greenville. With the beautiful blue skies, the lush greenery and near-perfect weather (well…. MOST of the time, anyway), there is much appeal to spending the day here. Many residents, myself included, choose to revisit that favorite pastime from childhood – bike riding – to explore our Downtown. And Downtown is only too happy to oblige bike enthusiasts!

May is officially National Bike Month…but here in Downtown Greenville, every month can be Bike Month. From designated bike lanes on our main streets to bike docking stations scattered throughout, Downtown Greenville is definitely a “Bike Friendly” community. The City of Greenville’s “Bicycle Friendly Community Initiative” began in 2006 as a city council resolution. It quickly gained in popularity as bike enthusiasts, including many bicycle racing professionals, rallied behind it. The result is Bike Friendly Greenville, whose goal is to provide infrastructure, education, and outreach to increase the number of trips made by bicycles by improving roads to accommodate bicyclists and creating programs that encourage alternative transportation. The program was recognized by The League of American Bicyclists for its work to bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation and work through advocacy and education with its prestigious Bicycle Friendly Community award. To learn more about Greenville’s Bike Friendly Program, visit their Bikeville page at http://www.greenvillesc.gov/ParksRec/Trails/bikeville.

As mentioned, many of Downtown Greenville’s streets offer Bike Lanes, so that bicyclists can safely share the road with motorists. These special lanes are clearly marked with a white bicycle. For more information, a map of specified bike lanes and other bike safety tips, download the City’s Bike Safety Brochure, found here: http://www.greenvillesc.gov/ParksRec/Trails/forms/BikevilleBrochure.pdf. Rather enjoy your bike ride without the distraction of cars? Downtown offers several bike paths that wind through our lovely public parks, including North Main Park, McPherson Park and Cleveland Park. If you would like a little more “mountain” to your biking, check out The Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 17+ mile multi-use trail, part of which winds its way through Downtown. Several of the trials in Cleveland Park also offer a satisfactory mountain bike experience. For more information and maps, visit: http://www.greenvillesc.gov/ParksRec/Trails/SwampRabbitMap

After enjoying a day of bike riding, you will most likely want to park your bike and enjoy all the sights and sounds that Downtown has to offer. The City has recently installed several bike racks throughout Downtown, where you can safely stash your bike before having lunch or taking in the sights. See the attached map for a list of bike rack locations: http://www.greenvillesc.gov/ParksRec/Trails/forms/DowntownBicycleRacksPlan.pdf

Don’t own a bike? No worries…there is no need to miss out on all the fun! Greenville B-cycle, a partnership between Upstate Forever and the Greenville Health System, is transforming the way we get around downtown Greenville. With six stations and 28 bikes, the system provides community members and visitors an active way to get around town. Four bicycle docking stations are located Downtown at 206 S. Main Street, 215 Rhett Street, 100 W. McBee Avenue and 11 College Street. Two additional stations are located at Sterling Community Center (113 Minus Street) and County Square (301 University Ridge). With a purchase of a membership online, or a one day guest membership, you can then have a bike to use at your leisure. For more information on this program, visit: http://greenville.bcycle.com.

If you want a little more variety in your bike choices, then check out Reedy Rides, a longtime provider of rental bikes to the Downtown area. Available seven days a week, Reedy Rides feature 3, 7 and 21 speed comfort cruisers to choose from as well as kid’s bikes, child trailers, tag-a-longs (third wheel), a tandem and trike. They provide not only the bicycle, but a helmet, a small bag for keys/phone/wallet, and a lock. They will even deliver to your hotel if you are visiting our fair city! Because it can get busy this time of year (especially on pretty weekends) reservations are strongly encouraged. For more information, or to make reservations, call (864) 419-2944 or visit: http://reedyrides.com.

So there you have it Downtownies. Greenville definitely goes all out to make her Downtown very bike accessible. So, grab your bike (or rent one) and head Downtown on one of these gorgeous Spring days to take advantage of our city’s Bike Friendliness! You’ll appreciate our Downtown in a whole new way! Safe Biking!

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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!

 



It’s a New Year…when our lives turn a page from the past and look forward to the future. Many of us make New Year’s Resolutions to improve our lives…things like losing weight or getting more exercise. But newscaster, Ann Curry suggests a way for all of us to impact not only our lives but the lives of others in her “26 Acts of Kindness” campaign.

The terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary still weighs heavy on my heart. Whether it is the senselessness of the violence, happening so close to the holidays, or the thought of 26 lives whose futures are unfulfilled, this event has made me, like so many others, reflect on the impact my decisions have on the lives of others. My Irish grandmother always taught me that any act…good or bad…would return to us “three-fold”. She did this to show us the importance of every decision we make.

It is with this in mind that I fully embrace and wish to expand on Ann Curry’s vision – in which she invites us all to commit 26 acts of random kindness…one to represent each life lost that terrible day. I propose that we expand on that idea and make it our New Year’s Resolution to commit 26 WEEKS of Random Kindness.  Six months of committing simple acts that will brighten and improve the lives of others. It can be as grand as a sizable monetary donation to a local charity, or as humble as holding the door open for an elderly person. These acts can be committed every day of the 26 weeks, or just one per week…the choice is yours. Are you with me?

Greenville has had a long tradition of helping others. It should come as no surprise to most that our hometown was recently recognized as one of the “Most Giving Cities in the US.”  It is…after all…”The Greenville Way”.

So, I hope that you will join me in taking part in this mission. To find out more about the “26 Acts” Campaign, visit their Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/26acts. Join thousands of others who have committed themselves to this cause. ..You’ll be glad you did!



You usually wouldn’t think of cool jazz, hot food and a rare cancer in the same thought, but you will after attending Brown Street Alive! On Saturday, June 23rd, historic Brown Street will become one big jazzy, jammin’ block party with food, fun and more as traffic is blocked off and music lovers are encouraged to dance in the streets. Sponsored by the Sarcoma Warriors of the Upstate, this family-friendly event is guaranteed to raise funds, awareness, as well as spirits, to fight this debilitating disease.

Not many people have heard of this rare, aggressive form of cancer that attacks the muscle, fat, cartilage, arteries and nerves – all the things that “hold” our bodies together. Because it is so incredibly rare (only .01% of the population will ever be diagnosed with it), there are few support systems for patients and their families and very little research done on its cause. Because it is so rare, most cases are diagnosed in later stages, making treatment difficult and very costly. Because this cancer is so rare, there are no pink ribbons (and a huge cause marketing campaign), there’s no race for its cure and yogurt companies do not make donations based on the number of lids sent in by customers. There are only these fearless Sarcoma Warriors, at “the ready” to do all they can to help those dealing with this dreadful disease.  Thinking of themselves as “Hired Henchmen”, this amazing organization works tirelessly to support patients and their families in fighting the “good fight” – by offering not only financial assistance, but emotional support, medical information and a voice in issues that affect those stricken.

Fast forward to this weekend and Brown Street Alive.  Featuring food, drink, games, prizes, silent auction and a vintage car and motorcycle show, this event is a crowd pleaser for all ages. But it’s the caliber of music that will make you glad you ventured off Main Street to follow the sweet sounds of jazz. Most of the bands taking part in this special event are familiar to regulars to the Brown Street Club. From some grumpy old jazz men to a teen-aged phenom whose guitar licks are incendiary – you will hear jazz that ranges from old school to rockin’ blues. Beginning at 4PM, three bands, Grumpy Old Jazz Men, The Marcus King Band (with Brendan Williamson) and Java, will be performing outdoors in a concert that is very family-friendly. Later on, starting at 6:30, The Adam Knight Trio and Shane Pruitt will be performing inside the more adult-oriented Brown Street Club.

So be sure to mark your calendars for Saturday, June 23rd and make your way to Brown Street for some cool tunes and hot times. The music is free, the food and games are very affordable and the cause is priceless. Fighting cancer never sounded so good!

More Info on the Bands Performing at Brown Street Alive…

Grumpy Old Jazz Men: Seen regularly tearing up the stage with their old school style, this group of jazz masters will make you feel anything but grumpy. They will be performing on the outdoor stage from 4PM to 6PM

The Marcus King Band (with Brendan Williamson): A favorite at several Downtown venues, including The Handlebar, Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe and Chicora Alley, this rockin’ blues band, fronted by teen guitar prodigy, Marcus King, is a must-see (they will also be performing at Main Street Friday on August 24th). Performing with guest musician (and another familiar face on the Downtown music scene), Brendan Williamson, this band will be taking the stage (outdoors) at 6PM, and burning it up until 8PM. For more info on this amazing band, visit http://www.reverbnation.com/marcuskingband

Java: Another regular of the Brown Street Club, this entertaining band is as heart-thumping as the caffeinated beverage from which they grabbed their name.  Be sure to check out their next Brown Street performance on July 21st. Going onstage at 8PM the guys will be closing out the event with their crowd pleasing, eclectic playlist until 10PM.

Adam Knight Trio: Often seen at High Cotton as well as the Brown Street Club, this talented trio will soothe your soul with their signature cool contemporary jazz. Kicking things off inside the Brown Street Club at 6:30PM, this threesome will provide delectable dinner music until 9:30PM. If you get the chance, try to catch them at their next Brown Street Club gig on July 24th. For more info regarding this band and their music, visit www.adamknightmusic.com

Shane Pruitt Band: Another group you’ve seen around Downtown at places like The Handlebar and Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe is the Shane Pruitt Band. With rockin’ tunes that will set your booty to shakin’, the guys will be closing things out in the Brown Street Club starting at 9:30PM. Catch them now, because they won’t be back at Brown Street until September 8th. For more info on this bodacious band of fellows, visit http://shanepruittband.com

To learn more about this event, Sarcoma Warriors or the Brown Street Club, visit http://sarcomawarriors.org or http://brownstreetclub.com

 



For the people who work, live and play Downtown, the statues of famous Greenvillians are just part of the landscape. We walk by them, sit next to them to rest our feet or to pose for a picture, use them as a meeting place to hook up with friends, even dress them up for holidays! But who ARE these people apparently so important to Downtown Greenville that we saw fit to immortalize them in bronze? This weekend, noted historian and founder of Historic Greenville Tours, John Nolan, will enlighten us on this subject in a series of tours scheduled to take place Saturday morning (June 16th) and Sunday evening (June 17th).  Can’t wait until this weekend to learn more (or perhaps, you’d like to impress Mr. Nolan with your vast knowledge of notable Greenvillians)? Well, here’s a little insight into just WHO these folks are and why they are so significant to our little part of the world.

Across the street from the Hyatt Regency (and the starting point of this weekend’s tour), is an impressive statue depicting former Greenville Mayor, Max Heller. Now, Greenville has had many mayors, but none quite like Max Heller. The epitome of the “American Dream”, Max was an Austrian Jew who fled to Greenville as a teenager to escape the Nazi regime. Arriving with less than $2 to his name, Max quickly found work at the Piedmont Shirt Factory (now the site of Devereaux’s) with the help of a local Greenville girl, Mary Mills, in answer to his plea for assistance.  Seven years later, the young man found himself the Vice President of the company, but soon felt the urge to strike out on his own. In 1948, he started his own shirt company with 16 employees and by the time he sold it 14 years later, his workforce had swelled to 700. With a vow to serve the public, Max ran for and was elected Mayor of Greenville in 1971. To say Greenville would not be what it is today without this event would be an understatement. Max quickly sprang into action – desegregating all city government departments and commissions, so that everyone would have an equal chance for success, strengthening our local economy by convincing corporations such as the Hyatt to build here and setting out to beautify our city so that instead of having out-of-towners drive quickly through Downtown (usually with windows up and doors locked), visitors would want to stop and spend time here. Sculpted by artist Thomas J. Durham, the statue is surrounded by concrete panels depicting aspects of this great man’s life and legacy.  I believe it is safe to say that Downtown Greenville would not be the award-winning, tourism nirvana and fine example of the “New South” that it is today without the faith and vision of Max Heller.

South from Max Heller Legacy Plaza, at the corner of Main and Washington Streets, stands a statue of two young people representing  a group of students whose actions were every bit as crucial in shaping Greenville as Mayor Heller’s. The young man and woman depicted in the statue have no actual names, they are representative of the courage and strength of the young students of Sterling High School. In the 1960’s, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, young men and women from this prestigious African-American high school staged peaceful rallies, demonstrations and  “sit-ins” at the Woolworth lunch counter, which was located at this site. Braving taunts, abuse and certain arrest, these resolute students, which included the Rev. Jesse Jackson and museum curator, Ruth Ann Butler, changed the societal landscape of Greenville County and helped end unfair segregation in the Upstate.  With funds raised by The Friends of Sterling, artist Mariah Kirby-Smith sculpted the two students walking proudly down the steps of Sterling High, schoolbooks in hand and hopeful expressions on their faces. The site also contains a memorial marker honoring Sterling High itself, which burned in 1967.

Further south down Main, on Court Street, is a depiction of another statesman important to our area, Joel R. Poinsett. Although officially a resident of Charleston, like many Lowcountry natives, he also had a “summer home” here in the Upstate.  Sculpted by artist Zan Wells and situated near the hotel that bears his name, Mr. Poinsett is shown pausing to read a book, his hat and coat carefully placed beside him. Many of the visitors who stop and pose for a picture with the distinguished gentleman, are unaware that not only is he responsible for bringing the standard of Christmas that bears his name, the Poinsettia plant,  to America, but that he was also the Minister to Mexico, the first consul-general of the US to Buenos Aries, Argentina, and Santiago, Chile, Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Van Buren,  a respected member of Congress and a member of the South Carolina State Legislature (where he was president of the board of public works). In his spare time (he actually HAD spare time believe it or not), he studied medicine and law, was extremely well traveled and had interests in natural history, botany, science, and politics. No wonder so many of our Upstate landmarks bear his name!

Across from Mr. Poinsett (and in fine company) is the statue of Vardry McBee. Commonly referred to as the “Father of Greenville”, Mr. McBee (pronounced “MACK-bee”, as any “old-family” Greenvillian will quickly inform you) was instrumental in accelerating industrial growth in our area.  After purchasing the land that would become the city of Greenville in 1815, he saw the value of a diversified economy and constructed over 100 buildings in Greenville County as well as built several mills (including a textile mill) along the Reedy River A humble man, McBee used his considerable fortune to improve the lives of his fellow citizens, appropriating his land and fortunes to public projects, He was a great believer in freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and that education should be available to all, and gave lands and money for the establishment of male and female colleges,  Greenville’s first churches (all of different denominations) and open areas available for public assembly upon which no buildings could be built (the Poinsett Hotel’s L-Shape is the result of being built around one of these city squares). He championed the construction of the railroad line that connected Columbia and Greenville, which become a turning point in the economy of the town. Sculpted by artist T. J. Dixon, McBee is shown in thoughtful repose, surveying the city he helped create.

Positioned near the Greenville News building, at the corner of Main and Broad Streets, is a formidable statue depicting Revolutionary War General, Nathaniel Greene. Although not actually from the Upstate, Gen. Greene played a significant role in the fight for American Independence in our state and is believed to be the inspiration for our city’s name (although the spelling has been changed). As one of the most trusted of Washington’s generals and the leader of the American troops in the South, Greene’s military genius was pivotal to Patriot victories in the Carolinas, thus turning the tide of the War in favor of the Americans. In this work created by the husband and wife team of James Nelson and T.J. Dixon, Greene is shown in an imposing stance, spyglass in hand, looking north toward victory at Yorktown.

Past the Main Street Bridge, located across from the Falls Park entrance at the corner of Main and Camperdown, sits the statue depicting one of Greenville’s most brilliant native sons, Charles Townes. The Nobel Prize winner for his studies that became the laser, Townes was recently listed as one of a thousand most important people of the last thousand years in the book, 1,000 Years, 1,000 People: The Men and Women Who Charted the Course of History for the Last Millennium.  Born in 1915 near what is now St. Francis Hospital, this future scientist showed an interest in the natural world and technology at an early age.  A precociously bright and innovative boy, he enrolled at Furman University as a sixteen-year-old freshman and later graduated summa cum laude with majors in physics and foreign languages in 1935. After earning a master’s degree at Duke University and a doctorate from the California Institute of Technology, he began work at Bell Labs, designing radar systems for American bombers in WWII. After the war, he joined the physics department at Columbia University. It was here, sitting on a park bench in 1951 that he had an epiphany which lead to the creation of laser technology. It is this moment that is captured in this sculpture by artist Zan Wells.  Clutching the envelope on which he scribbled the formula for his theory, Townes is shown with the light of scientific revelation reflected on his face.  In tribute to Dr. Townes’ invention, the statue actually contains a small laser. Surrounding this piece in what is known as “Townes Plaza” are four other benches from Franklin Park in Washington, DC, where Townes is reputed to have had his earth-shaking “a-ha moment”.  Visitors are invited to sit with Dr. Townes and have a revelation of their own.

South on Main Street, toward the part of Greenville known as the West End, is the final and perhaps most poignant statue on the tour, the sculpture of Joseph Jefferson Jackson, otherwise known as “Shoeless Joe”.  The story of Joe Jackson’s life and career are worthy of a Shakespearean play. Son of a poor Greenville sharecropper, Joe quickly went to work in a textile mill as soon as he was old enough to reach the machinery. As a young teen, he was recruited to join the mill’s baseball team as its youngest player. First positioned as a pitcher, he was moved to left field after one of his pitches actually broke an opponent’s arm. He would play this position for the rest of his baseball career. But it was at bat that Joe’s amazing natural talent shown through. Swinging his beloved “Black Betsy”, Joe set record after record – many of which still stand today. This is how artist Doug Young chose to portray this baseball legend – forever frozen in time, swinging for the stands, his eyes alight with the knowledge that he just hit another home run.  It was this incredible ability that soon caught the eye of major league scouts. After playing with several professional teams, Joe was signed by the Chicago White Sox in 1915.  Over the next four seasons, he became Chicago’s favorite sports icon, leading the league in batting statistics and winning the admiration of fans and fellow players alike. Babe Ruth even modeled his batting style after Joe’s and Ty Cobb said Joe was “the finest natural hitter in the history of the game”. But Joe’s success was short-lived. In a tragic turn of events, Joe found himself accused with seven of his teammates of  “throwing” the 1919 World Series in what became known as the “Black Sox Scandal”. Despite the fact that Jackson had 12 hits (a Series record), a .375 batting average (the best of both teams) committed no errors, and he and the other seven were acquitted of fraud charges, the “Chicago Eight” were banned from baseball for life by Commissioner Kennesaw Landis. He never played professional baseball again after the 1920 season. After living in several southern towns and cities and playing semi-pro baseball under assumed names, Joe and his wife, Kate returned to Greenville to live out the rest of his years.  Always a beloved local hero to the people of Greenville,  Joe continues to be a hero to baseball fans all over the world. He still holds franchise records for the Indians and the White Sox for both triples in a season and career batting average. In 1999, he was #35 on The Sporting News  list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players and was chosen by MLB fans as the 12th best outfielder of all time. Yet, despite vast amounts of evidence proclaiming his innocence and numerous pleas from fans, Greenville citizens, professional ball players and even members of Congress, Shoeless Joe continues to be blacklisted from baseball, thus preventing his well-deserved inclusion in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Want to learn more? Then join Mr. Nolan and others for a guided tour down Main Street to discover what these wonderful statues and the remarkable people they depict reveal about our city’s past and present. Sponsored by Historic Greenville Tours and the Upcountry History Museum, the tours begin in the Dogwood Suite at the Hyatt Regency and end at Shoeless Joe Plaza (intersection of Main and Augusta). Two tours will take place – Saturday morning, June 16th, from 8:30AM until 10:30 AM and again Sunday evening, June 17th, from 6:30PM until 8:30PM. Tickets for the tours cost $20 for UHM members and $30 for all others and are available at The Upcountry History Museum. Space is very limited. If you are not able to fit either of these tours into your summer schedule, no worries…similar tours are planned to take place in September and December. For more information, visit www. Upcountryhistory.org

So there you have it…a diversity of sculptural works depicting a diversity of people, all of whom had a significant part in shaping our fair city. And the list is ever-growing…plans are in the works to create more statues because Greenville natives just KEEP ON doing remarkable things! Who will be next? I personally would like to see a sculptural tribute to Academy Award winning actress (and Greenville native) Joanne Woodward, to acknowledge Greenville’s thriving arts and theatre community…but that’s just my opinion.



Summer’s coming…that time of year school kids count down to with great anticipation.  After the initial elation of “No more pencils, no more books”, summertime boredom sets in.  But with this fun assortment of summer classes and camps for kids and teens, you may never have to hear “I’m bored” even once!

With interactive, kid-friendly exhibits and activities, it’s no surprise that The Children’s Museum of the Upstate is a favorite with kids year-round. When the temps get warmer, the fun factor gets amped up…BIG TIME! Offering weekly day camps that have delightful themes such as “Build It”, “Let’s Move” and “Passport to Fun”, kids of all ages will happily discover something to spark their interest! Camp sessions begin mid-June and the cost ranges from $125 for the Lil Sprouts Camps (ages 4 & 5) and $250 for the Big Kids Camp (K5-5th graders). Pre-registration is required. For more information, visit: www.tcmupstate.org.

The Greenville Zoo is another wonderful place for kids anytime of the year. Like the Children’s Museum, when summer comes, the Zoo offers exciting and educational camps for kids from pre-school to middle school. Camps are scheduled for several weeks, starting in early June, with morning and afternoon sessions available. There is even an overnight camp for teens. Rates range from $45 – $105 for Zoo Members and $50-$115 for Non-Members. Pre-registration is required, and some dates may be already be full. This year’s theme is “Animal Mythbusters: Truth or Myth”. With behind-the-scenes adventures, exciting games and crafts and discussions with zookeepers, kids will have so much fun, they won’t realize they’re learning! For more information, visit www.greenvillezoo.com

For the future Oscar winner in your family, Greenville’s theatre community offers several opportunities for your young thespian to earn their acting chops. The South Carolina Children’s Theatre has long been a source for theatrical entertainment and education for theatre enthusiasts of all ages. Summertime is no different. Preschool and young elementary schoolers can discover their hidden fairy selves or release their inner pirate with fun day camps that encourage young ones frolic in their imaginary worlds. 1st-5th graders will get to don their superhero capes and save the world in SCCT’s Superhero Camp and Teens and Tweens will have the chance to creatively “think on their feet” in a fun and exciting Improv Camp. The cost for these camps vary, starting at $150, and pre-registration is required. To find out more, visit:  http://scchildrenstheatre.org.

The Greenville Little Theatre has been the “jumping off point” for many talented young actors, including Oscar winner (and Greenville native) Joanne Woodward. GLT strives to continue that impressive tradition with theatre classes for teens and tweens that cover such important subjects as movie-making, musicals and play-writing. Classes begin in June with “Let’s Make a Movie”. Costs vary from $150-$200 and pre-registration is required. To learn more about GLT’s programs, visit www.greenvillelittletheatre.org.

For your budding Monets and Picassos, the Greenville County Museum of Art offers an array of imaginative art classes in many mediums. K5 – 5th graders will be encouraged to explore the watercolors of Andrew Wyeth, make a hamburger bigger than their head, and learn about 3-dimensional art, all under the tutelage of some of the Upstate’s finest artists. Teens will have the opportunity to fine-tune their drawing skills with Bruce Bunch, dabble in fashion design with Emily Clarke, and tap into the wonders of wool and fiber art with Deb Potter. Classes begin in June and the cost is $99 per class. Pre-registration is required. For a list of classes and more info, visit: http://artclasses.greenvillemuseum.org.

Children with autism often have difficulty expressing themselves and also find it difficult to locate summer programs that fit their unique needs. A new writing program, Ugly Words, inspires and empowers Upstate children ages 8-18 to write frequently and with confidence through a combination of workshops and tutoring. This unique program encourages these kids to explore their imaginations and write about their experiences in THEIR words, without fear of being corrected.  Three pilot programs have been scheduled for this summer to take place at Hughes Main Library and cover a broad range of subjects from fort-building and urban archaeology to teen literary favorite, “The Hunger Games”. These workshops are free, but registration is required and opens May 31. For more information about this wonderful program, please visit: http://HYPERLINK “http://uglywordsgreenville.tumblr.com/”uglywordsgreenville.tumblr.com.

In addition to the Ugly Words programs, the Hughes Main Library offers many activities for kids of all ages. From Summer Reading Programs and Storytime to Craft Time and Theatrical Productions, the library offers a little something for kids of all ages. For a schedule of programs and classes, visit the Greenville Library System’s website at www.greenvillelibrary.org.

Greenville’s Parks and Recreation also has a variety of fun activities designed just for kids. Their Super Summer Day Camp for boys and girls age 5-12 takes place Monday-Friday at each of the City’s Community Centers. The campers get to enjoy arts and crafts, fitness and sports, music, field trips and much more. Cost is $225 for this 10-week camp (Greenville residents get a 20% discount) and pre-registration is required. In addition to the Summer Camps, the Community Centers also offer an eclectic mix of activities and classes for kids and teens that range from Art & Design and Music Classes to Tennis and Fitness Camps. Cost varies depending on the class. For more information, visit the Greenville City page at: http://www.greenvillesc.gov/ParksRec/CommunityCenter.

Well, there you have it – plenty of activities to keep little hands busy and young minds focused. And Downtown Greenville also has many other attractions that thrill the little ones. From the Upstate History Museum to the Mice on Main, and all the fun and funky shops and restaurants, parents will find a plethora of family-friendly activities that are fun for kids and kids at heart. Have fun!

 



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