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

Greer’s Noah Guthrie Comes Home to the Upstate

Greer’s Noah Guthrie Comes Home to the Upstate

If you’re looking for something to do on Friday night, head over to Woodruff for a free concert by Greer native Noah Guthrie—a singer/songwriter who achieved viral fame with a YouTube cover of “I’m Sexy and I Know It,” and then went on to be cast on the hit TV show Glee and last year was a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent. Noah’s star is still rising, and after his free concert here, he heads off on his Hell or High Water tour, with dates in the UK, the Netherlands, and several U.S. cities.

In 2015, Ten at the Top writer Deb Peluso introduced us to Noah after his season on Glee. If you missed it then, read on:

It only takes one viewing of Noah Guthrie’s YouTube hit, I’m Sexy and I Know It, to know his sultry, blues-filled voice is like no other. It’s no surprise that this 20-year-old’s soulful take on LMFAO’s pop hit  garnered him more than 23 million views.


But he didn’t rest on the laurels of his successful covers, including Ariana Grande’s “Problem,”  “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.” Last year Noah released Among The Wildest Things, his debut album, co-writing the majority of the thirteen original songs. That same year, Noah secured  a place in Glee history when he was cast in the final season.


Glee was such an amazing experience for me,” Noah said. “It was a completely random thing that come up in my life and I’m very glad it did.”


Being raised in a musical family built the foundation for Noah’s future. Both of his parents are singers and exposed both Noah and his brother, Ian, to music since birth. David Guthrie, Noah’s father, recognized that Noah had an ear for music from the age of two or three. “He has much better chops than I ever had!” David said. It’s Noah’s sincere, unexpected powerhouse of a voice that has fans, critics, and audiences in awe.

The Guthries’ home was always filled with a steady mix of blues, jazz, country and R&B. “The Muscle Shoals sound is very much a part of both [Noah] and Ian’s history and influence,” David said. That passionate, bluesy style is mirrored in the artists Noah admires as an adult.


Noah has been touring the U.S. and will be performing through the end of 2015. He gets a tinge of homesickness  on occasion, but often has his father and brother on the road with him, giving him a piece of home wherever he travels. Noah said, “I miss the mountains most when I’m gone, definitely the mountains.”


He is eager to put out new music soon and speaks highly of his fans. Noah said, “I want to give a big thank you to any of my fans reading this, you guys make my world go round and I appreciate your support every day.”

Be sure to catch Noah on tour and keep up-to-date with him on Facebook.

Elevating the Upstate with Grants Since 2013

Elevating the Upstate with Grants Since 2013

One of last year’s winners was the 96 Mill Village Association’s Movie in the Park series.

Every year in June, Ten at the Top opens the application period for $5000 Elevate Upstate grants, given out every year for programs, projects, and initiatives that promote community vibrancy.

Since 2013, Hughes Investments, Inc. has provided $80,000 in funds to 24 local communities as part of the Elevate Upstate Community Vibrancy Grant program.

What is community vibrancy, anyway? Think of the things in your own community that make you proud to live where you live, that get you out of your house and interacting with your neighbors. Things that make your streets more attractive and celebrate what makes your community unique. Those are things that make your community vibrant.

Phil Hughes, president of Hughes Investments, says, “The Elevate Upstate Grants are for those wishing to bring new life to their communities—a spark, a fresh idea, a new tradition—something that will excite the public and bring people together from all walks of life in a new way.”

One of the winners from 2013, the first year the grants were awarded, has become a popular annual event in Greer.

Past Elevate Upstate grant winners include public art projects, interactive outdoor education, downtown music, a food truck plaza, and more. The key element is that the proposed initiative will increase community vibrancy and sense of place and benefit the community as a whole. Take a look at the list of past winners here, with some video clips that explain the projects.

Do you have a community vibrancy project that could use some funds to get off the ground? Do you want to find out more about how to navigate the process of applying for an Elevate Upstate grant? On July 16th, we’ll be hosting an Elevate Upstate Grant Workshop here at our event facility, and we’d love to see you there.

The town of West Pelzer capitalized on its designation as a bird sanctuary and created an educational art installation of bird houses along Main Street.

You’ll hear from Mary Anne Goodman from the Ninety Six Mill Village Association, who successfully applied for a grant to fund a community movie night. You’ll also hear from Coie Switzer and Curtiss Hunter from the Union Environmental Art and Music Festival, who were runners up and received a matching grant—and how they got the support they needed to launch their event a year ahead of schedule.

For those interested in applying, an interest form is due by August 1st and the completed applications due by September 16th. Two grants of $5,000 each will be awarded at Ten at the Top’s annual Celebrating Successes event in November, where finalists will have the opportunity to present their proposed project before a final judgment is made.

Article by Sharon Purvis