Pumpkinstock: Music, Camping, and River Fun

Pumpkinstock: Music, Camping, and River Fun

Sure, the Woodstock 50th anniversary festival may have been cancelled, but we have our own three-day camping music festival right here in the Upstate this weekend! Since we’re in the mountains, the music has a distinctly grassy flavor, covering a wide range of music that falls into the Americana genre.

Pumpkinstock is the brain child of long-time music festival promoter Pat Mulkey, and although the idea for this festival came because he wanted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock—particularly with the on again, off again, and now definitely off again roller coaster ride of the big anniversary show in New York—he’s calling this the inaugural event, hoping to do it annually.

Pat Mulkey on the Bonfire Music Fest property

The festival is hosted by Mulkey’s Bonfire Music Fest, a campground in Pumpkintown that was developed especially for camping music festivals, with both RV sites and tent sites. This will be the second festival held on the property, after a very soggy one a couple of years ago where it rained all weekend. The forecast for this weekend is much more favorable for an outdoor music festival—and even if it’s a little hot, festival goers are welcome to cool off in the river on the property (but no glass in or near the river, please!).

Three-day tent or RV passes as well as single-day passes (no single-day camping) can be purchased online. There are no hookups for RVs, but you can bring a generator, and there are plenty of Port-a-Johns around the camp sites. The festival is kid- and pet-friendly (with a $10 pet fee that will be donated to the Pickens County Humane Society), and campers can bring their own food and drinks or buy meals and beer and wine from food trucks that will be onsite.

Gates open to campers at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, with music getting underway at 4:00 p.m. until right before midnight. Saturday’s lineup starts playing at noon, and on Sunday the music starts goes from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m.

The Grass is Dead, a bluegrass Grateful Dead cover band led by Billy Gilmore, is the host band for the festival, and the West End String Band is “the official campground band.”

Other bands include:

Songs from the Road Band, a folky, grassy band

Fresh Hops, which features a fiddle, but also some funky fusion and just plain fun

Marvin King Revue, definitely more blue than grass

The Raelyn Nelson band, fronted by Willie Nelson’s granddaughter

JGBCB—Jerry Garcia Cover Band, which is pretty self-descriptive

Mama Said String Band, an almost-all-female new-grass band (only the fiddle player is male)


The Complete Music Lineup for Pumpkinstock:


Marvin King Revue

RJ Galloway

Westend String Band

Marvin King Revue

Jerry Garcia Band Cover Band JGBCB

The Grass Is Dead



RJ Galloway

My Girl My Whiskey and Me

Sunflowers and Sin

Shuffel Button

Kelly Jo and Phat Lip

Sunflowers and Sin

Mama Said String Band

Fresh Hopps Band

Raelyn Nelson Band

Billy Gilmore and Grass Is Dead

Bonfire Jam



Mama Said String Band

Some Very Special Guests

West End String Band—Our Official Campground Band!

Rev Jeff Mosier and Friends and Family Jam

Songs from the Road Jam

The Grass is Dead’s Goodbye Jam

Pickin’ at the Fire

This schedule is subject to change, but regardless of what the lineup looks like, a good time will be had by all.

18 Years of Supporting Literacy with the Really Good, Really Big, Really Cheap Book Sale

18 Years of Supporting Literacy with the Really Good, Really Big, Really Cheap Book Sale

It’s the highlight of the summer for book lovers like yours truly—a whole mall with tables and tables filled with books priced from 50 cents to $8, alphabetized by author in various categories, from biography to romance to children’s books to cookbooks. And it’s happening this weekend, August 10th–11th—the Really Good, Really Big, Really Cheap Book Sale.

What used to be the McAlister Square Mall now contains University Center of Greenville, Public Education Partners, and several other education- and employment-focused entities, including the Greenville Literacy Association, who runs the sale to help fund its operations in Greenville County.

With a staff of 11 and an army of 300 volunteers, the GLA serves about 1,000 people every year, with GED and ESL classes, career counseling, and other assistance—and tucked away behind the offices and classrooms are storage rooms full of boxes of donated books that are collected throughout the year, sorted and boxed with impressive efficiency by volunteers to be pulled out in the days before the sale.

The event begins with a preview party on Friday night, with food, wine, and a jazz trio—and a chance to have first dibs on the books for sale. Tickets are $40 for an individual or $70 for a couple, and they’re on sale online through tonight, but you can purchase a ticket at the door on Friday, too.

The sale officially opens on Saturday morning at 8:30, but book buyers eager to beat the rush can pay $10 at the door at 7:30 to have an extra hour of shopping. Free admission goes from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and on Sunday, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., it’s $10 for whatever you can put in a bag.

If you’ve never been, it’s helpful to have a map of the sale, so you can go right to the books you want. If you come in the center entrance to the mall, the wing on the left is nonfiction and on the right is fiction; straight ahead of you, past the center island, is children’s and miscellaneous. But within those general categories, there are several subcategories: Christian fiction, romance, westerns, sci-fi, and general fiction in the right-hand wing, and history, social science, biography & memoir, cookbooks, sports, and more on the left. “Miscellaneous” includes classics, philosophy, drama, and short stories. The children’s section includes YA, middle readers, puzzle/activity books, and picture books.

You’ll want to bring a large tote bag with you if you’re planning to really do some shopping. More experienced shoppers—teachers, homeschool moms, and serious readers—bring rolling carts and boxes to maximize the haul.

The Really Good, Really Big, Really Cheap Book Sale: By the Numbers

  • The sale is in its 18th year.
  • It takes more than 300 volunteers to make it all happen.
  • Last year, the estimated attendance was 11,000 people (based on an algorithm involving a count of receipts).
  • Last year’s sales totaled $112,000.
  • The preview party usually draws about 400 people.
  • The previous record for number of books at the sale was 148,000 two years ago. This year the goal was to collect 150,000—and they ended up with 156,000!
  • The children’s books section is bigger than ever this year—it’s usually around 45,000, and this year it’s 66,000. And all children’s books are 2 for $1!
  • When it’s all over after the Sunday clearance sale, only about 20,000 books are left, so the collection process pretty much starts from scratch each year.
  • 100% of the books are donated, and the sale is volunteer-run, so the money goes directly to programming to promote literacy in Greenville County.


By Sharon Purvis

Tickle Your Funny Bone—Comedy in the Upstate

Tickle Your Funny Bone—Comedy in the Upstate

If laughter is the best medicine, have we got a dose for you! This weekend alone, there are three comedy shows to choose from in Greenville: America’s Got Talent  winner Terry Fator, with an act full of characters and musical impressions, will be at the Peace Center on Friday night; at Comedy Zone Greenville, physical comedian Arnez J—dubbed the “Black Jerry Lewis,” appearing on the Comedy Club Network, his own BET comedy special, and numerous other shows—will perform five shows; and Alchemy Comedy will host Atlanta comic Damon Sumner, who co-hosts the podcast “Forth and Ten.”

Comedy Zone Greenville has more shows on the calendar on upcoming weekends as well, including “In Living Color” cast member Tommy Davidson and Carlos Mencia, whose show “Mind of Mencia” was one of Comedy Central’s strongest original shows. And for more home-grown comedy, Comedy Zone Greenville hosts The Joke Show, a stand-up comedy open mic, every Thursday night.

In addition to its comedy shows in Coffee Underground’s theater, Alchemy offers improv classes for anyone interested in learning the art of sketch comedy—the classes are not at Coffee Underground, but at their training center at 400 Birnie Street. No comedy or theater experience is necessary to begin, but each class is a prerequisite for the next. An added perk is that students get free admission to Alchemy shows!

Sparkle City Improv in Spartanburg performs on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Growler Haus (parental discretion advised), and they offer improv workshops as well. These are somewhat sporadic, and there’s not one on the calendar at the moment, but if you’re interested, follow their Facebook page so you can be alerted when one pops up.

For more home-grown comedy in and around Greenville, check out Stone Grown Comedy, No Expectations Comedy,  and the New South Comedy Festival, which happens every November.

by Sharon Purvis

Taking Art to the Streets—Public Murals in the Upstate

Taking Art to the Streets—Public Murals in the Upstate

by Kari Koenig, Ten at the Top intern

If you’ve ever taken a drive around upstate South Carolina, you’ve probably noticed one of the state’s many unique murals. These impressive pieces of public art decorate otherwise unnoticed spaces, transforming them into desirable destinations for locals and tourists alike.

Wall murals inspire more than just Instagram pictures. Murals promote a sense of belonging within the community. Most focus on themes specific to the community they are in, making it easy for people to identify with the art.

The upstate’s most recent mural was unveiled in Spartanburg on July 19th. The Spartanburg Art Museum’s youth outreach program, COLORs, partnered with Frankie Zombie to create this masterpiece adorning the Bethlehem Center. The colorful geometric pattern was inspired by artwork done by the children in the COLORS program. A quote from president Barack Obama is painted in the mural’s center and captures the theme of the project: “We are the change we’ve been waiting for.”

Each mural seeks to tell its own story. In the words of Adrian Meadows, who worked on the Bethlehem Center mural:

“[The mural] not only has the power to inspire a new generation, but also to remind them that their passion can take them to heights they can’t even fathom, that their dream and aspirations can become a reality and that they don’t have to wait for anyone or anything—that greatness is already inside of them and just waiting to flourish.”

Another art project is currently changing the face of Stone Avenue in Greenville. Stephanie Burnette and Jean Wilson Freeman spearheaded this initiative, named the Stone Mural Project. This 12-year project plans to create 12 murals on Stone Avenue in Greenville, a street instrumental in the lives of Greenville residents. Burnette and Freeman are two moms in the community who took it upon themselves to enhance their street through art.

As of today, eight murals have been created. Stone Academy and the Art in Public places commission fund the project. So far, the local artists who have designed these pieces are Eric Benjamin, Kalista, Jean Wilson Freeman, Sunny Mullarkey McGowan, Bannan Blasko LLC, Michelle Jardines, Annie Koelle, and Joseph Bradly. The murals’ creation processes have also included partnerships with Furman and Stone Academy allowing college and elementary students to partner together. Individuals from all walks of life have joined forces during this project, ultimately strengthening the community as a whole.

Each work of art is a means of self-expression for the artist and others involved. Art has the power to send a message while connecting with people in unique ways. Next time you are out and about all across the Upstate, check out some of these amazing murals and be inspired—and if you’re inspired to take a photo, don’t forget to use #upstatevibe365!

25 Years of the Panthers in Spartanburg

25 Years of the Panthers in Spartanburg

Since the franchise first joined the NFL 25 years ago, the Carolina Panthers have held their training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg. They say all good things must come to an end—and whether that’s true or not, this is one good thing that will likely be coming to an end in the near future. No doubt you’ve heard plenty about how the South Carolina legislature worked hard to convince the Panthers’ new owner, David Tepper, to build a new training facility in Rock Hill. That likely means in the future you may have to drive a little further for Panther training camp, but the team will continue to be the team for both Carolinas beyond 2019.

But for this summer, you can still see the Panthers here in the Upstate at Wofford College’s Gibbs Field.

Starting on July 25th with a kickoff party and culminating with joint practice with the Buffalo Bills on August 13th-and 14th, there will be plenty of opportunity for fans to see the team up close on the training field—and July 26th–28th and August 4th are Panthers Pals days, where young fans can have their photos taken with their favorite Panthers. Click here for the full schedule of training dates.

Away from the training field, there are other events at local businesses during the training camp days to commemorate the 25th year.

  • A Panthers Training Camp Kick-off Party at the Spartanburg Marriott on July 25th will offer discounts on food and beverages to fans in Panthers gear, Panther-themed cocktails, outdoor games, and official NFL giveaways.
  • On the 26th, there’s another party—the Upstate Riot Training Camp Welcome Party at the FR8yard, with food, drinks, and entertainment for Panthers fans.
  • On Saturday, July 27th, start your morning (7:45-8:30) with Breakfast at Bo’s with fellow fans and the Roaring Riot crew—and come early for free biscuits and coffee!
  • A Training Camp Tailgate Party & Cornhole will be held at Ciclops Cydery and Brewery on August 4th from noon to 2:00 p.m.—drinks, cornhole, and a 2020 Roaring Riot membership as a prize for whoever can beat Zack in cornhole.
  • On August 13th, Josh and Zack from the Roaring Riot are hosting three rounds of Panthers Trivia at the Growler Haus, with bar gift certificates and Roaring Riot prizes awarded to the top 3 teams.

by Sharon Purvis

Ten at the Top Executive Director Report – 2019 Mid-Year

Ten at the Top Executive Director Report – 2019 Mid-Year

Reaching the midpoint of 2019 and thus Ten at the Top’s 10th Anniversary Year provides a great opportunity to reflect on the work that has been done so far this year as well as all that is yet to come.

The new year began with a notable milestone as in January we moved out of the Upstate SC Alliance office into our own office location after having rented space from the Alliance since the beginning. While we appreciated the great hospitality from UA, having our own location is a great signifier that after nearly a decade, TATT is becoming more established and ready to branch out and reach new heights in our role as a convener and connector around issues that impact economic vitality and quality of life in the Upstate.

The move is just one example of why I believe the “best is yet to come” both for Ten at the Top and for the Upstate region.

In many ways, the work of TATT over the last decade has been an ongoing process to build relationships and trust among Upstate stakeholders and identify opportunities to grow our collective capacity and impact issues that cross jurisdictions and stakeholder areas.

Perhaps very appropriately, given that this is our 10th Anniversary year, so far 2019 is proving to be a year where the groundwork we have been laid in several focus areas is now culminating in actionable opportunities that have the capability to create long-term impact.

Connecting Our Future

For the last two years, Ten at the Top has been coordinating the Connecting Our Future initiative focused on improving mobility and connectivity across the Upstate. This effort includes transportation providers, local governments, non-profits and area businesses and focuses around the goal of improving the movement of people and goods across the Upstate region.

There are many stakeholders involved in mobility, and the issue impacts every Upstate resident in some tangible manner.

After building an advisory committee of stakeholders that finalized an Upstate Mobility Vision in 2018, so far in 2019 the focus of the Connecting Our Future effort has been to identify opportunities for short and long term collaboration around key elements of transportation and mobility as well as creating the framework for an Upstate Mobility Alliance. Expect to hear more about this effort in the second half of 2019.

Entrepreneurial Support Providers Network

Mobility and access to transportation plays an important role in providing opportunity for all residents to gain employment and achieve success. We have learned over the last several years that another viable way for people to gain financial stability is through entrepreneurship and small business ownership.

In South Carolina, roughly 95% of all businesses are small businesses with 20 or fewer employees, so it is critical for the economic success of our communities to have an ecosystem that helps cultivate new opportunities for those looking to start a business or build on an entrepreneurial idea.

The Upstate has many resources that support small businesses and entrepreneurs, but one of the ongoing challenges (as well as opportunities) is in creating ways for people who historically have been disconnected from these resources to know about and utilize resources that can help them achieve personal success. According to the Kauffman Foundation, women and individuals from low-wealth communities are under-represented as small business owners and often are unaware of services and opportunities available to them.

For the last couple of years, Ten at the Top has convened quarterly meetings of the Upstate Entrepreneur Support Providers Network, which includes individuals and organizations that work directly with entrepreneurs and small business owners.

The Network provides an opportunity for idea sharing, consistent messaging about small business resources and the development of strategies that can increase capacity.

In 2019, the Network is focusing on strategies to connect the disconnected across the Upstate with available resources while also building the overall awareness of the role small businesses and entrepreneurs play in growing the Upstate economy.

In the coming months, the Network will be holding a number of workshops in disconnected communities across the Upstate while continuing to develop resources that can support all who are looking to start or grow a business in the region.

Education Spectrum

Another component of achieving personal success is through having a collective culture that values education. For several years, Ten at the Top has convened meetings of various groups of educators at the K-12 and higher education levels.

In 2018 we hosted a pair of meetings between K-12 public school superintendents, college and university presidents & provosts, as well as leaders from the business community. The group identified two potential opportunities for working across the education spectrum: career pathways and the K-12 teacher shortage.

In partnership with the Public Education Partners, in late 2018 the Education Spectrum Group chose to initially focus on the K-12 teacher shortage by looking at specific elements of the shortage. Over the last eight months, three work groups have studied the overall challenges and identified potential initiatives and actions that can be implemented by individual districts or collectively across the region.

Over the next four months, the work groups will be refining those ideas and will be presenting them to the larger Education Spectrum Group at a workshop on November 4th.

Community Vibrancy and Upcoming Events

Supporting community vibrancy and the development of a sense of place in urban and rural communities has been a staple focus area for TATT since the very beginning of the organization. In 2019 TATT and Hughes Investments will provide the Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grants for the seventh year. To date, 24 communities have received a total of $80,000 in funds to support vibrancy initiatives.

In 2019, TATT also relaunched a regional events and activities calendar through the #UpstateVibe365 campaign. This site provides a one-stop place to find more than 300 events happening across the region each month while also connecting users to interactive regional asset maps featuring a number of different regional resources.

In addition to these initiatives, TATT is continuing to convene the Upstate Professional Planners Group, the Upstate Senior Issues Group and the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee.

As part of our 10th Anniversary Celebration, TATT is hosting a special workshop in each Upstate County with the topic being related to something of specific interest within that county. The first workshop was held in Laurens County in June, and the second is scheduled for July 23rd in Union. Be sure and check our events page for future workshops over the remainder of 2019.

If you have not had an opportunity to attend one of TATT’s Pizza & Beer Redefined Events, which are an exclusive low-key networking opportunity for board members and funding partners, we will have two additional events later this year.

We are also very excited about our annual Celebrating Successes – Great Things Happening Across the Upstate Brunch, which will take place on November 20th at the Greenville Convention Center. In addition to recognizing individuals and companies that make the Upstate special, we will also be awarding the 2019 Hughes Investments Elevate Upstate Grants.

This event will also serve as TATT’s 10th Anniversary Celebration, so we are planning some other surprises and hope you will plan to join us.

While we acknowledge and appreciate the many partners and great work that has occurred so far this year, we must consider this work as building blocks for ongoing efforts to grow the Upstate’s collective capacity.

I personally want to thank everyone who has been involved with TATT so far this year, whether as a funding partner, board or committee member or participant in some of our regional initiatives. You are critical not just to the success of Ten at the Top, but also of the Upstate region.

I look forward to our collaborative ongoing efforts to ensure that the Upstate continues to be recognized as a leading place to live, learn, do business and raise a family.

We truly are stronger together.