Earlier this week my little town of Lamar observed National Night Out, and the local neighborhood watch put together an organic, decentralized street festival to celebrate. Regular readers know I am an avid fan of festivals, especially this time of year, and I look forward to visiting them—the weirder, the better.
With the proximity to National Night Out and the excitement of festival season in the air, I thought I’d dedicate this week’s TBT to a post about a much larger weekly festival, the so-called “Soda City Market.” It’s been months since I attended, but it still holds a fond spot in my heart (and my stomach).
Here’s hoping that more of these open-aired autumnal festivals make a comeback this year. After the long drought of The Age of The Virus, we could all use some fun.
With that, here is “Soda City Market“:
This week’s posts are going to be a bit more treacly than usual, as I’ll be out of town later in the week and am pressed for time (it’s the end of the quarter, which is always crunch time). I will hopefully be able to cover the vice-presidential debate this week, but otherwise, I’ll be sticking to more lighthearted fare.
To that end, I thought I’d share about my visit Saturday to the Soda City Market, a weekly farmers and crafts market in the tradition of “European street markets,” per the market’s website. It reminded me a great deal of Aiken’s Makin’, just in downtown Columbia: lots of wood crafts and foods you’d only eat a festival.
I’ve missed festival season thanks to The Age of The Virus, so it was good to get out and see throngs of people buying wooden bric-a-brac and eating fair food. Many festivals have been cancelled this year, or have seriously downsized (the Ridge Spring Harvest Festival, for example, just put on its “Battle for the Ridge” barbecue cook-off this year, and cancelled the other festival events) to comply with health and safety guidelines.
To get to the festival, my girlfriend and I parked on the University of South Carolina campus, and walked (with her German shepherd in tow) about a mile to the business district side of Main Street. To get there, we walked through the State House grounds.
I’ve always loved the South Carolina State House, and enjoyed walking its among its lush gardens and beautiful monuments as an undergrad at USC. There were two events taking place there on Saturday: some manner of gospel concert on the South Main Street side, and a patriotic demonstration on the North Main Street side. I couldn’t tell much about either event, but the patriots (they were flying the old thirteen-star Revolutionary War American flag, so I perceived they were the good guys) had some BLM protesters chanting, “No hate, No KKK No fascist USA!”
Fortunately, there were no fisticuffs, as State Troopers were ever vigilant, and the BLM hacks were far away from the folks on the steps of the State House. We passed by at a safe distance and headed into the market.
I was impressed by the size of it. The market effectively took over three linear blocks of Main Street. I’m more accustomed to small-town festivals, which typically take up one or two tiny blocks before petering out. For reference, a block in downtown Columbia is very long, so this sucker extended for quite a distance.
My approach with festivals and street markets is to make a single pass, then reverse and stop at places of interest. We diverted from that slightly, as we stopped more on our first pass through than our second. My girlfriend picked up a four-cheese manicotti from “The Pasta Guy,” who rolls his own noodles. It made for a delicious dinner. I purchased some “tiny” art from Bee Bottom Art, which is not named for Bee Bottom near Pound, Virginia, where my great-grandmother lived, as I found out. I also got some very reasonably priced woodwork from Abue’s Wooden Creations.
All in all, it was nice to see people out and about, enjoying a gorgeous Saturday. We haven’t had enough of that lately. I know The Virus is still out there—my prayers go out to the President, First Lady, and others who have recently tested positive for it—but it seems that life might be—maybe—possibly!—returning to normal, or at least some degree of it. Masks were apparent, and I’m afraid they’re not going anywhere (I don’t doubt their efficacy, I just find them uncomfortable and dehumanizing), but people were enjoying themselves.
If you find yourself in Columbia on a Saturday morning from 9 AM to 1 PM, check out the Soda City Market. It’s refreshing to see people living and enjoying life again, and you’ll find some goodies to take home, too.