School’s going to be out soon, and it’s time to find things for the kids to do all summer! Far from the one-size-fits-all camps of yesteryear, there are camps for all kinds of interests for kids these days, from cooking to sports to art and much more.
For Greenville County, Kidding Around Greenville has put together a really nice, comprehensive guide to summer camps, broken out by category, area, month, and other groupings, with great descriptions and links.
Given that the population for the Upstate region is projected to reach 1.75 million by 2040, it is not surprising that the recently released Census Bureau population estimate showed that the Upstate added nearly 20,000 new residents between July 2017 and July 2018.
There are certainly some who will read those numbers and suggest it is just further confirmation that we are growing too fast and need to shut the doors to make sure we maintain the quality of life for those already living here.
As someone who has lived in and studied regions struggling with declining population and economic crisis, it is my opinion that the great community vibrancy and strong economy here in the Upstate is directly tied to the fact that we are a region where people want to move and stay, thus resulting in consistent population growth over the last half century.
Changing policies to specifically discourage population growth would likely have unintended consequences that could directly contribute to a decline in economic viability and quality of life while likely having limited actual impact on the total population numbers for the region.
Instead of focusing on potential policies that could hamper positive growth, for more than a decade, leaders from across the Upstate have been promoting and encouraging efforts that embrace the Upstate as a vibrant and growing region—one that supports policies, investments and practices that help us shape future growth, instead of being shaped by it.
We are at a key juncture in the future of the Upstate. The increase in traffic congestion and land being used for development in many of our counties is now noticeable and starting to impact daily life and decisions across the region.
Fortunately, there are a number of opportunities for the Upstate today to significantly impact our future growth, without trying to limit the number of new residents within our communities.
How We Move People and Goods
Much of the discussion over the last decade in the Upstate and all of South Carolina around transportation has been focused on our deteriorating roads and bridges. The investment in improving our roads that was approved by our state legislators in 2017 was a key milestone, but was only one of many steps that must be taken if we want to efficiently and affordably move people and goods across the state for years to come.
Many local communities in South Carolina, but none in the Upstate, are enhancing their road maintenance and improvements with local financial support. Providing local funding is one way communities can ensure the most utilized roads within their community are able to keep up with traffic demand while remaining safe.
In the Upstate, 94% of people get to their daily job by using a personal vehicle. While we will likely never be able to create public transportation systems that can be used by everyone, just providing alternative transportation methods that reduce the number of people in the region who get to jobs using a personal vehicle to 85 or 90% would have a dramatic improvement on our roadways.
Providing Your Voice on Comprehensive Plans
The South Carolina statutes call for cities and counties to create and revise a comprehensive growth plan every ten years. These plans are designed to serve as a guide for communities to make decisions around appropriate growth within their community. Many of our communities are currently in the process of updating their plans.
Almost all elected officials regularly say that they make their decisions based on the input they receive from their constituents. One key element of the comprehensive plans is community input. If you have questions, concerns or ideas about how your community should try to shape local growth over the next decade, participating in one of the many meetings being held in your community is a great opportunity to share your insight.
If you are interested in the comprehensive planning process within your local city or county, I encourage you to check their web site for upcoming meetings and updates throughout the planning process.
Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Nearly 90% of all workers in the United States and 95% in South Carolina work for businesses with 20 or fewer employees. Studies have also shown that being an entrepreneur or small business owner is one of the greatest ways for someone to advance their economic status and in many cases emerge from the historic cycle of poverty.
During a recent visit to the Upstate, Andy Stoll from the Kaufman Foundation said that the communities that will have the greatest overall economic success and stability are those that are able to create a culture where all potential entrepreneurs and small business owners are aware of and have access to what they need to be successful.
The Upstate region is fortunate to have a large number of entities that provide support for entrepreneurs and small business owners. There are many Upstate residents who have the potential to become small business owners, but are likely unaware of the resources available to them. Continuing to develop and enhance connections between available resources and potential small business owners and entrepreneurs is another opportunity for our region to help support growth while building a strong economic foundation that gives everyone opportunity.
Ultimately, what future we leave for our children and grandchildren will be determined by local and regional priorities and investments. Rather than turning our backs on growth and suffering the consequences, if we can embrace the fact that we are a vibrant and growing region and continue to have public dialogue and support investments that shape that growth in a positive and sustainable manner, we can ensure that the Upstate remains a leading place to live, learn, do business and raise a family for generations to come.
You can learn more about Ten at the Top and how you can become involved in regional growth initiatives at www.tenatthetop.org.
From the spring through the fall, towns all over the Upstate have live music—some as often as every week—for free, family-friendly entertainment. Grab a chair, pack a picnic, take the kids, and enjoy an evening out with free music!
Here is a sampling:
Abbeville Live Concert Series will offer two concerts on the square this summer: Fred Engler and the Trouble Shooters on June 7th, and a special Labor Day Cruise-in concert featuring the Super Sixties.
Jazz on the Alley in Seneca features a variety of bands every Thursday from April through October, and many restaurants offer outdoor dining on Thursdays to allow diners to enjoy the music—or you can bring a lawn chair and a picnic!
Main Street Laurens’ Finally Friday on the Square takes place on the final Friday of each month—check their Facebook page and their website for what’s coming up at the end of this month.
Spartanburg has two weekly music offerings: Music on Main on Thursdays, which showcases bands covering a wide variety of genres, and Jazz on the Square on Saturdays.
Music in the Park, in Travelers Rest, has something for everyone, from 80s retro music to rockabilly and much more, every Saturday. There are food trucks starting at 6:00, and the music starts at 7:00.
There’s always something happening in the Upstate, and this weekend there are a ton of festivals in the Upstate to choose from. Every festival, along with the town hosting it, has its own local flavor, so see if there’s one happening in a place you’ve never visited before and check it out!
If you’re inspired by our Instagram photo of the week to go visit Abbeville, this weekend is a good time to do it: Abbeville Spring Festival starts on Thursday and runs all weekend long, with tons of music, crafts, and delicious food.
For a festival and fundraiser rolled into one, head over to Pickens for the 22nd annual Blue Ridge Fest, hosted by Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative employees. You’ll pay for a ticket that gets you access to bands, a classic car show, and more–and the money raised benefits local charities.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Pelham Medical Center Greer Family Fest, and the planners this year have an expanded vision for the festival to reflect Greer’s growth. With Restaurant Row, a Kids Zone, more than 150 vendors, and plenty of live music, there’s something for everyone!
The Reedy River Duck Derby is more than just rubber ducks going down the river–it’s a full-on festival in its own right! Loads of family-friendly entertainment, games, and activities will give you plenty of reason to spend the whole day in the park. And the ducky adoptions fund children’s charities.
Another festival for a cause is Piedmont’s Spring Craft and Vendor Fair, held at the Farm at Sandy Spring, which raises money for community repairs.
Spartanburg’s Earth Day Festival doesn’t actually fall on Earth Day, but on May 4th this year–it’s a celebration of stewardship, sustainability, and our beautiful planet, with interactive, educational activities for the whole family.
If your mouth is watering for the first strawberries of the season, head up to Slater and the Strawberry Festival, where, in addition to delicious strawberries, festival goers can enjoy entertainment, craft vendors, and plenty of other food.
The Spring in Bloom Festival and Bazaar in Mauldin includes a design center with an Ask a Master Gardener booth along with loads of plants for sale for your yard and garden–in addition to plenty of arts and crafts for sale, kids’ activities, music, and food trucks!
And then you can finish off your weekend with beer at the Tamassee Craft Brew Celebration on Sunday! Billed as “the original Oconee County craft beer festival,” there will be 20 different breweries sampling their wares, as well as lots of local food, music, and a home brew contest.
Keep your eye on our calendar for more festivals in the coming weeks–there are plenty more throughout the spring and summer!