They came from all over the Midlands and from far beyond. People from approximately 1,700 different zip codes gathered in one Columbia neighborhood for a day-long party. Many wore green. Many drank beer. Almost all spent money, boosting local businesses during the 34th annual St. Pat’s in Five Points celebration.
Rain in the forecast on March 19 stayed away, and more than 43,000 people came to Five Points. The day began not long after dawn, with 2,407 runners and walkers taking part in the Get to the Green 10K, 5K and one mile family fun run.
The day also started early for many of the 494 volunteers who helped keep the festival running smoothly. From directing runners to answering questions to assisting with recycling and cleaning up, the volunteers worked hard. Many represented local nonprofit organizations, and the organizations will be rewarded with donations from the festival profits in the coming weeks.
The annual parade followed the races, with 76 floats moving down Devine Street to Five Points as crowds cheered all along the route.
The festival then started in earnest, with 17 bands providing entertainment from four stages as guests listened while enjoying food and drinks from local restaurants along with four food courts and four food trucks with mostly local vendors.
Festival co-chair Amy Beth Franks said “The festival has a 6 million dollar economic impact on our community each year, which is the equivalent of a home Carolina vs. Clemson football game (and we only get those every other year!).”
The impact on businesses was easy to see during the festival, as Five Points bars and restaurants overflowed with guests. Many had long lines outside, and set up outdoor booths to sell food and drinks to passers-by.
Saluda’s offered a VIP experience, a chance for guests to people-watch from the balcony and enjoy air conditioning and indoor restrooms without waiting in line. The VIP experience tickets sold out weeks before the festival, making it one of the most profitable days of the year for the restaurant.
Newcomers to the neighborhood were impressed. “It’s my first time in Five Points, but I’ll definitely be back,” said Emily Hall, who recently moved to Columbia from Tennessee. “Everyone is so friendly, and we went to the Cotton Gin and it was definitely worth the wait.”
All ages were on hand, with families bringing young children, college students from USC enjoying the music, and many seniors among the crowd throughout the day.
“I love the music and all the people dressed up in green,” said 10-year-old Karstyn Thomas, summing up the feelings of many.
Franks said a press conference in April will recognize the many volunteers who made the festival possible.