The Daily Gamecock

St. Pat’s festival rakes in the green

Well-attended festival features local bands, lots of good beer

There aren’t too many places in Columbia where you can see decked-out leprechauns sipping Irish cider, men in thongs held up by clover-adorned suspenders and a fountain bursting with bright green water. Couple that with a vast selection of brews, delicious food and great local and national bands, and St. Pat’s in Five Points is born. And this certainly ain’t your grandma’s St. Patrick’s Day Fest.

An annual tradition for the past 29 years, St. Pat’s in Five Points brought together locals and visitors in a celebration of music and the Five Points community over the luckiest holiday weekend of the year. Festival attendance has climbed steadily over the past few years, and according to Jack Van Loan, chairman of the festival, 33,067 paid visitors the gate fee and 5,500 more got in free through sponsorships. In previous years, frequent rain and cooler temperatures had marred the festivities, but with the day’s high temperature never dipping below the low 80s and sunny skies overall patrons flooded the streets eager to get their green on.

“The festival has been great, and the weather’s helped that a lot,” said fourth-year sport and entertainment management student Marcus Cooper. Cooper also pointed out that, unlike the last two years, this festival wasn’t held during USC students’ Spring Break.

“The students are able to come out in full force,” Cooper said. “It’s great for there to be more people here.”

The live music portion of the festival kicked off at noon with Whiskey Tango Revue, winners of the March 4 “Battle for St. Pat’s” competition, playing the Miller Lite stage at the corner of Harden and Blossom streets. By 12:30 p.m., festival patrons had flocked to St. Pat’s, as local metal outfit Obraskai rolled through their set on the Budweiser-Rock 93.5 stage in front of a dense crowd spanning from the stage to the famous green Greene Street fountain.

This year’s bands were set up on various stages throughout Five Points, with the music floating through the air from every corner. Local acts played a huge role, receiving great receptions both from die-hard fans and new listeners. Sets from twang-tinged rockers Josh Roberts and the Hinges, indie-pop quartet All Get Out and virtuoso performers John Wesley Satterfield and his Damn Fine Band were all well-attended, with many patrons singing and grooving along to all their favorite tunes.

“It’s great having stages from the Free Times and 93.5,” said David Stringer, a USC alumnus and the founder of the Scene SC music blog. “It’s better for having all types of local music.”

As the festivities drifted into the late afternoon, several nationally known acts also took to the stage to entertain the masses. Local favorite The Movement jammed out shortly before Georgia-born rocker Corey Smith began his set on the Miller Lite stage around 5 p.m., running through a variety of fan favorites in front of a packed crowd. Southern rockers Rehab were also a part of this year’s lineup, debuting some of their newer material while still sticking to old classics like “Bartender Song,” a crowd-pleaser that had the entire audience singing along.

Then it was time for headliners The Dirty Heads to take the stage. Recently named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “best new bands of 2010,” the Heads’ set was full of high energy that kept fans moving until they closed with their hit single, “Lay Me Down.”

“The Dirty Heads were my favorite act by far,” said second-year international business student Noah Clark. “I love their sound, and I’ve really been looking forward to hearing them play live.”

Although there were 20 bands of every flavor on top to keep festival-goers in high spirits, patrons also had the option to shop the many vendors selling a variety of beads, T-shirts and artwork or even pay a visit to the beer gardens serving up everything from SweetWater to Sam Adams. There was even a variety of food stands set up around the area, offering up lemonade, corndogs and funnel cakes.

As the night began winding down, patrons still decked out in their beads and flashing pins continued the party in Five Points, flooding local restaurants such as Pawleys Front Porch and Muchos Margaritas for drink and dinner specials. And as many headed home to call it a night, it was clear that this year’s St. Pat’s in Five Points festival had been a huge success.