Thousands descend upon downtown Pickens, SC each spring for the Blue Ridge Fest, an effort created and operated by Blue Ridge Electric Co-op employee volunteers to raise money for local charities within their four county service area.
Blue Ridge Electric, which has long championed charitable community causes, decided in 1998 to combine the company’s philanthropic efforts and energies into one large, vibrant community event. An employee committee reviews over 100 applications annually, and must make the tough decisions on which charities will receive funding from the event. Visit the 2019 Blue Ridge Fest Charities webpage to view this year’s funding recipients.
Jim Lovinggood, President & CEO of Blue Ridge Electric Co-op, had this to say:
“On behalf of Blue Ridge Electric Co-op employees, I would like to invite you to the 22nd annual Blue Ridge Fest. This year promises to be one of the most entertaining with performances by The Oak Ridge Boys, The Tams and Jim Quick and Coastline! Over the past 21 years, Blue Ridge Fest has generated over $2.8 million dollars to support local Upstate communities. The proceeds from this event will be given to 12 local charities serving Anderson, Greenville, Oconee and Pickens counties. We hope you enjoy this night of great times for great causes.”
In addition to the live musical entertainment and delicious food, festivalgoers enjoy the largest Classic Car Cruise-in in the Upstate— classics such as Model A Fords, Studebakers, hot-rods, and more.
After the highly anticipated performance of The Oak Ridge Boys (and perhaps a little dancing), the evening culminates with a raffle drawing of three cash prizes, with first prize winning $10,000! A raffle ticket can be purchased for $5, or 5 tickets for $20. Click here for more information or to purchase tickets, or you can get tickets at the Blue Ridge offices in Pickens and Oconee.
Jonathan Irick, Director of Main Street Laurens since 2006, has worked hard to make downtown Laurens a place that locals can be proud of and that visitors will want to return to, and he was recently awarded the Main Street America Revitalization Professional Credential. Congratulations, Jonathan!
A press release from Main Street America said of Irick and Main Street Laurens, “During his tenure as the Director of Main Street Laurens, Jonathan has continued to lead the program and its many volunteers to become a model program both across the state and nationally. Main Street Laurens is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote, improve and preserve the unique character and economic vitality of downtown Laurens.”
In 2014, Main Street Laurens won a Hughes Investment Elevate Upstate grant, presented by Ten at the Top, for the Finally Friday on the Square program. It was billed as a “celebration of all things Laurens,” with live music to bring people into the historic downtown area from April through September. The $5000 grant allowed Laurens to pay for the music artists for all of 2015, but the music was just the beginning—other attractions include free trolley rides, extended business hours, and special treats like an ice cream social.
Main Street Laurens’ Facebook page lists events, including the upcoming Sip ‘n’ Stroll Wine Tasting on April 25, and promotes local businesses. If you haven’t visited downtown Laurens recently, check out one of their events, visit their businesses, and be sure to tag any photos you take with #upstatevibe365!
There is an oasis in the heart of downtown Greenville that was created specifically for the purpose of healing and renewal—of hope and moving forward.
That place is Cancer Survivors Park, and it is open to anyone who has been touched by cancer—which, let’s face it, is just about everyone. The park’s vision is to “change the way we live with cancer.”
Conceived originally by a group known as Patients First, the idea was for cancer patients to have a space outside of a clinical setting to reconnect with themselves, with nature, and with their loved ones—but also a space that would give those patients and their families access to resources, information, and support.
As the space became a reality in the Cancer Survivors Park, Patients First changed its name to Cancer Survivors Park Alliance (CSPA). Once the park was complete, it was turned over to the city of Greenville to be maintained as part of the Parks Department, but the CSPA still actively hosts a variety of exercise and wellness programs for cancer patients and survivors at the park and other venues as part of their mission.
The park, situated off of the Swamp Rabbit Trail between Church and Cleveland Streets, features a boardwalk to connect the park to Church Street, a pavilion/education center, a labyrinth for meditation and contemplation, an outdoor amphitheater, and a suspension footbridge.
If you have been touched by cancer, or if you know someone who is dealing with cancer, be sure to stop by the park, check out the education center, and take advantage of the support offered by the CSPA.
Big changes are happening in Greer. One of South Carolina’s fastest growing cities is getting a major makeover. The project is known as “CenterG” for the synergy it will bring to Greer. Greer CPW has worked since the summer of 2017 to replace or rehabilitate sewer and water lines prior to the city’s work, giving much of the area known as Greer Station new underground utilities now.
In a recent article from the city of Greer, Greer City Administrator Ed Driggers mentioned, “This is one of those projects that we do about every 75 to 100 years and it just happens to be the time to do it,” he continued to mention that, “It is aging infrastructure and it will be a very complex project on which we are partnering with Greer CPW. We’ve been working with our downtown merchants for a couple of years now, advising and preparing them for this.”
In hopes of enhancing people’s experience downtown, the city is taking a design that is very unique. This new infrastructure will not be traditional—the design is called a shared street design. It has no curb and gutter and is a paver street rather than an asphalt street. Their goal is also to maintain two-way traffic for vehicles and pedestrian access in that area as well as parallel parking.
The streetscape will be funded by city resources. The $10.8 million-dollar project will include a shared street design, brick pavers, landscaping, new curb and gutters, ADA accessibility, and new lighting on Trade Street.
Matt Sossamon, Project Manager at Sossamon Construction Company, Inc., stated to Nickelle Smith of WSPA, “We’ve done a number of streetscapes throughout the Upstate —Daniel Morgan Square in Spartanburg, Fountain Inn, Abbeville, we’ve done a number of them.” He continued, “We understand the concern that the business owners have in the downtown and we’re going to do our best to minimize the inconvenience as much as possible.”
The city of Greer is encouraging folks to follow the construction process atwww.futuregreer.com and is working to communicate that despite the construction, all businesses are open and we need to continue supporting them.
Museums are a great way to learn about a small slice of history—and from trains to baseball to kitchen gadgets to Cherokee Nation history, there are some fascinating museums big and small in various corners of the Upstate that are worth checking out.
For art lovers, there are a few not-to-be-missed museums in the area, like the Greenville County Museum of Art, which has the largest collection of Andrew Wyeth watercolors of any public museum in the world; and the Spartanburg Art Museum at the Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg, whose current exhibit, In Their Element, explores the four basic elements—earth, fire, water, and air—as metaphors for life.
The Bob Jones University Museum and Gallery, whose collection includes 420 religious-themed paintings by masters such as Rubens, Botticelli, and Honthorst and more than 1,000 antiquities spanning 37 centuries, is currently closed for renovations, but there are still ways you can see parts of the collection in the meantime.
General Store Museum: a recreation of England’s General Merchandise store, with genuine historic artifacts (127 E. Main Street, Westminster, SC; open Thursday–Saturday 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.)
Bob Campbell Geology Museum: more than 10,000 rocks, minerals, and fossils plus paleontological exhibits (140 Discovery Lane, Clemson, SC; open Monday–Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.)
Hub City Railroad Museum: housed in the depot building, displays include railroad artifacts as well as items that would have been shipped by railroad (298 Magnolia Street, Spartanburg, SC; open Wednesday and Saturday, 10 a.m.–2 p.m.)
Miller Bible Museum at North Greenville University: A collection of rare printed Bibles, including a tiny Bible only an inch and a half tall (7801 N. Tigerville Road, Tigerville, SC; call 864-977-7091 for hours)
The Historic Belton Train Depot houses two different museums: The Ruth Drake Museum’s holdings include all kinds of artifacts of domestic life, from kitchen gadgets to farm implements, and the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame includes portraits of inductees, and plenty of other tennis memorabilia. (100 N. Main Street, Belton, SC; open Wednesday–Saturday; call 864-338-7400 for hours)
Spartanburg’s Chamber of Commerce is serious about supporting its local businesses, creating the Spartanbucks program to encourage spending in the community. So far, 24 local merchants have signed on to the program, and $40,000 worth of Spartanbucks have been purchased—with that much more pledged to be purchased between five different companies.
While individuals have purchased Spartanbucks in the form of gift cards, the bulk of what has been purchased and committed has come from corporations for employee gifts and bonuses. Just as important, though, is getting merchants to sign on so that recipients have a number of options to choose from in spending their bucks.
Shauna Axelrod, executive assistant at the Spartanburg Chamber and Spartanbucks point person, says, “As we grow this, it’s ideal that we grow both merchants and employers. We’d like to make it as big as possible, and at the end of the day, it’s just putting a lot of money back into the community, which is great.”
Right now, in the beginning stages of the program, the participating merchants are almost all in the downtown area, but Axelrod says she hopes as the program grows, merchants across the county will participate as well.
Many of the merchants are restaurants, but Spartanbucks can also be spent at the Chapman Cultural Center and the Children’s Museum of the Upstate, as well as at local retail stores.
Recipients will get a link sent either to their phone or their email, and that link will contain the list of participating merchants. With the link, they’ll have either a printed gift certificate or an electronic one on their phone, and that gives the merchant a credit card number to run.
On the merchant side, the credit card number is sent to the store via a link, and once a ten-cent transaction is run using the number, they are set up with the Spartanburg Chamber as a participating merchant—so customers can’t simply use that credit card number at Wal-mart or another non-participating store.
For level 1 chamber members, the cost is $100 per year; for those at level 2 and above, it is complimentary as part of their chamber investment. Non-members may also participate for an annual fee of $250.
The back end of the program is run through a company called Yiftee, which provides Local First gift card services for any community that wants to commit to keeping money local, supporting local businesses. There is a per-merchant fee, and Yiftee requires 12 participating merchants to set up the program. The Spartanbucks program is a simple one, with no physical cards, but branded merchant cards are available through Yiftee for a monthly fee.
To become a participating merchant or to find out more about using Spartanbucks as an employee reward system, contact Shauna Axelrod at (864) 594-5011 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.