Chautauqua Festival in the Upstate: It’s Revolutionary!

Chautauqua Festival in the Upstate: It’s Revolutionary!

Nearly 150 years ago, long before the term “edutainment” came into use, an adult educational/entertainment movement was born on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in New York State (Wikipedia). They became so popular that “daughter Chautauquas” sprang up in other locations, spreading the movement to other areas of the country in the early part of the 20th century. Common elements of those early assemblies were lectures, religious themes, and music—and they were seen as a more wholesome form of entertainment than the vaudeville performances that were popular at the same time.

After the Great Depression the two world wars, the Chautauqua movement faded away as radio and TV became household entertainment, but it was revived in the 1970s.

Today Chautauqua is associated with living history—performances given in character of historical figures, with an interactive element in which the audience can pose questions to a living, breathing person. Greenville Chautauqua’s website describes it this way: “More than history. More than a performance. More than a story. We are Chautauqua, a nonprofit, experiential oral tradition that brings history to life through interactive theater and compelling discussion aimed at stimulating critical thinking.”

Chautauqua in the Upstate

The Greenville Chautauqua has been bringing history to life since 1999, expanding its programming to Asheville in 2000 and Spartanburg in 2009. The June festival includes events in all three cities, as well as Travelers Rest, Pelzer, and Brevard (NC).

This year’s theme is “It’s Revolutionary,” but it’s not all about the Revolutionary war—using an expansive definition, the festival features Alexander Hamilton (and some of his women), Andrew Jackson, Jackie Kennedy, and Malcolm X.

Click here for the full schedule, and go meet some of the most interesting characters in history.

Summer of You: Learn a Language!

Summer of You: Learn a Language!

If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new language, why not make this the summer you start on that goal? Upstate International offers more than 30 classes in 13 languages, from beginner to advanced, so you’re sure to find something that fits your interest and skill level.

Whether you are planning a trip to Italy, want to converse with your son’s Japanese girlfriend, work for a German company, or just want to challenge yourself with a new skill, these classes will help you meet that goal. Learning a language is great for brain development, but it’s also a great way to connect with people who speak another language. “There’s nothing more valuable or precious than speaking to someone in their language,” says Program Manager Christine Hofbauer.

Regular classes ($65 for 8 weeks) meet once a week for an hour, and intensive classes ($265) meet twice a week for 90-minute lessons. The classes are only open to members (which requires a $50 fee), but, says Hofbauer, the membership fees help keep the costs down.

All classes are taught by native speakers of the language who volunteer because they want to share their language and culture with others. In the first class session, the teachers find out what the learning goals of the students are and tailor the curriculum around those goals. With class sizes capped at 15 students, that kind of individual attention is possible. “The classes are very informal,” Hofbauer says. “There’s no homework, no testing—but it’s a really high-quality learning experience.”

The language class offerings started 20 years ago with English conversation clubs for immigrants who wanted to immerse themselves in the language and culture of their new home. From there, the offerings have expanded to include not only the popular languages like French, Spanish, and German, but also Thai, Greek, Hebrew, and American Sign Language (taught by a couple made up of a deaf husband and a hearing wife). There is even a Spanish for kids, taught at the YMCA.

If this is something you’ve been wanting to do, check out their summer course offerings and sign up for a class that will expand your world!

Five Splashy Ways to Beat the Heat

Five Splashy Ways to Beat the Heat

It’s going to be a hot one this weekend, and splashing around in some cool water is just the ticket for beating the heat. Outside of your local pool, here are some natural and man-made options to cool off over the long weekend. And don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

Uptown Greenwood Splash Pad

Opening for the season on May 25th, the splash pad at the Uptown Market in Greenwood is open seven days a week (11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 7 p.m. on Sunday). Restrooms are onsite, and the facility is available for birthday parties. Bring your kids, along with chairs and towels, for hours of fun!

Shipwreck Cove Water Park (Duncan)

A great place for the whole family, Shipwreck Cove opens for the season on May 25th. It has a splash pad and wading pool area for small children, as well as a lazy river and larger pool with water slides for bigger kids and adults. Plenty of deck area with chairs and umbrellas, restrooms, and a concession stand make it a great place to spend the day!

Swimming Area at Lake Placid in Paris Mountain State Park

The designated swimming area is the only place in the park where swimming is allowed, and use of the swimming area is included in the price of park admission. There are also pedal boats and kayaks for rent to enjoy the lake without being in it (no private boats are allowed on the lake).

There is also lake swimming at Pinnacle Lake in Table Rock State Park, the lake at Oconee State Park, Lake Keowee, and Lake Jocassee.

Glendale Shoals Preserve (Spartanburg)

This is a beautiful spot that’s sunny on one side of the river and shady on the other, where visitors can wade and splash or swim while enjoying the scenic property that was donated to the Spartanburg Area Conservancy.

Campbell’s Covered Bridge (Landrum)

The only remaining covered bridge in South Carolina is here in the Upstate—and as a bonus, there’s a picnic area next to a creek that’s just right for wading and splashing around.

It’s Time to Think About Summer Camps!

It’s Time to Think About Summer Camps!

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.

In Spartanburg, the day camps at Chapman Cultural Center have something for every interest: science, history, art, ballet, writing, and outdoor adventure. The Greenwood Arts Center has several arts-themed camps as well.

Area colleges and universities have a variety of academic, sports, and other summer camps available:

Clemson University

Lander University

Presbyterian College

Tri-County Tech

USC Upstate

Limestone College

Southern Wesleyan University (and click here for SWU’s jazz camp)

Converse College

Piedmont Technical College

Wofford College


Your local YMCA also has plenty of summer camp options:

Anderson County

Cherokee County

Greenville County/City YMCAs

Greenwood County

Laurens County

Oconee County

Pickens County

Here’s to an amazing summer adventure for your young campers!


You Want Live Music? We’ve Got Live Music!

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.

And, last but not least, there is Piedmont Gas Downtown Alive in Greenville every Thursday at NOMA Square.

So get out and enjoy some live music—and don’t forget to tag your concert photos with #UpstateVibe365!




Festivals Galore!

Festivals Galore!

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!