Festival of Discovery takes behind-the-scenes work, coordination to come together
By: CONOR HUGHES
Last year, about 38,000 visitors took in the diverse selection of live blues music and premium assortment of barbecue offered at the South Carolina Festival of Discovery in Uptown Greenwood.
What many of them didn’t see was the extensive preparation that made the festival possible.
“We don’t stop, really,” said Lara Hudson, Uptown Greenwood manager. “There’s always some aspect of it going on.”
From negotiating road closures and detour routes with the state Department of Transportation to organizing the 90-plus teams that compete in the barbecue competition — up from five when the festival started in 2000 — making sure the Festival of Discovery goes off without a hitch is a year-round job for the city.
“When the event ends, we immediately go into promotion mode for the next year,” said Charlie Barrineau, Greenwood city manager. “As soon as this event ends, we’ll be announcing the 2018 date and soon thereafter, recruitment of teams and sponsorship for 2018 begins.”
The 2016 Festival of Discovery infused about $1.7 million into the city’s economy, $104,880 of which was collected in taxes, according to an economic impact report — and making sure the 2017 festival goes smoothly has been a huge undertaking, Barrineau said.
This year’s festival kicks off Thursday and, as the start date approaches, a massive coordination effort among the city, the DOT, the Greenwood Commissioners of Public Works, competition teams and musicians involved with Greenwood Blues Cruise, the musical portion of the festival, is getting underway.
The city goes to each competitor prior to the event to get how much space, electricity and water they need and goes out a week beforehand to mark each competitor’s spot — each equipped with water and power lines that CPW installed several years after the festival started.
“We have built, basically, a temporary campground that we put out basically once a year and so all the utility lines, electric lines and water lines are in the ground,” Barrineau said. “If we’ve done our job and communicated effectively, when they roll up, all they do is plug in and they’re good to go.”
While the city works to shut down Main Street for the festival — an effort that involves shutting off street lights, directing traffic and marking detours — Hampton Place Shopping Center and South Main Baptist Church offer their parking lots as staging areas for the nearly 100 trailers and RVs rolling into Greenwood to compete.
Getting every vendor and competitor into place as the event gets started also takes time and communication.
“We have someone at each end of Main Street with radios and that individual will say, ‘Hey, I’ve got Team Number Three and I’m letting them in,’” Barrineau said. “Then we have another person in the zone where Team Three is waving and saying, ‘Hey, come on over here.’ So it is a lot of coordination.”
Barrineau said he also goes to an average of four festivals a year to see what other cities are doing differently.
“The Jack Daniels festival in Tennessee, their award ceremony was much more grand. I mean, they had a DJ and things like that. So we’ve incorporated a lot of the things they did,” Barrineau said. “Every year, we make tweaks. We’re going to have a live feed through social media, so we’re hoping that will be another hit that’s good for the event.”
The benefits the festival offers Greenwood are worth the complex, time-consuming work that goes into getting it off the ground, Barrineau said.
“We called it the Festival of Discovery because we wanted people to discover the food, music, heritage and culture of South Carolina,” he said. “It has just been a great pull for the city.”