Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

As we took in the exhibits and demonstrations for the SEWE Saturday at Marion Square, I couldn’t help but continuously think of a solitary phrase: “What a difference a year makes.”

A year ago from Saturday, Suzanne and I were standing at the bottom of her entry staircase on Wentworth Street, the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics paused on DVR, as we marveled at a winter wonderland developing outside.  Downtown Charleston was blanketed in 1-2 inches of snowfall in one of those strange scenes you sometimes see at local restaurants that depict such an event occurring in like 1935.  The organizers of SEWE had a little bit of reorganization to contend with, not to mention a few jittery hours of attempting to project how much the cold temperatures would affect attendance.

This Saturday, the sun shone brightly, creating a near-80 degree picture of perfection for throngs of wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts to absorb the products and messages of vendors, interest groups, and magazines enveloped in what basically constituted a zoo considering how many different types of animals were gracing the square.

Speaking of animals, a year ago we stood over a pen at the Grateful Golden’s post, gazing happily and, truth be told, warily, over the…lab…puppies that were crawling around therein.  For some reason, the volunteer organization didn’t have golden retrievers the day we went but the effect was still the same, as we were a mere two weeks from adopting Finley.  I remember feeling particularly antsy that day, carefully observing the behaviors of all the dogs and their owner men/women as they traversed the crowds amidst the intense amount of stimuli that threatened to wrest the dogs from their grasp at any moment.  I was doing my homework.

This Sunday, we took our own wresting dog on an exhibition for attendees to do their homework on how NOT to control your dog in a crazy situation.  To her credit, she’s been worse–way worse.  To our credit, well, we get no credit, besides maybe sympathy points for putting on a free clinic/comedy hour.  She wasn’t the worst behaved hound in the place by a long shot though and even if she was exuberant, it was only in the name of getting an up-close and personal look at the golden/lab mix puppies gracing the large enclosed tent.

She was doing her own mentoring.



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What I would do to wake up to this view each morning…on this porch…in this house…ok, stopping before I depress myself. Images like this are the reason my first trip to Biltmore left me feeling both exhilaratingly inspired and extremely poverty-ridden. I had never felt so poor in my life.

We’ll be taking in all that the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition has to offer this weekend, particularly the Dock Dogs competition at Brittlebank Park.  Get out and enjoy a very spring-ish weekend, Charleston!

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To be honest, parades have always confused me, or at least, rather, the organization of a parade befuddles me.  By no real volition of my own free will, I tend to place parades, especially annual Christmas parades, upon some weird pedestal of expectation and reverence to the assemblage of the participants.  Every year I do this.  And every year, I have to be reminded that, in actuality, there’s a lot less that goes into the average municipal holiday stroll down a main street than I anticipate.  That’s the definition of insanity, right?

Truth be told, there appears to be very little to qualify an individual or group for inclusion in these things.  If you can move your body or have something else move your body, you can participate.  You don’t need fancy signage, decorations, or blaring music.  A bent up poster board and a magic marker will suffice.  Proofreading on these signs is optional (we spied one “Chritmas” and one “Mery” upon only casual attention to detail).

But all of that is perfectly ok in my book. Its the accessibility of entry that makes the Charleston Christmas Parade such a fun event to attend each year and lends itself towards some degree of gloriously bizarre randomness.  This year’s version certainly did not disappoint.  Some quick observations:

-As is tradition, Mayor Joe Riley closely followed the opening marching band down King Street.  The Mayor’s form of participation in the parade always kind of cracks me up.  He walks alone, for one thing.  The New Urbanist-civic leader practices what he preaches;  no vehicle for this gentleman. He also frantically waves to nearly every single person in the audience, exclaiming a ten-thousand and one enunciations of “Merry Christmas” and proceeds on his own merry way. There is something about it that I am having a hard time pinpointing that makes me think the whole thing is very odd but it’s something I always look forward to.  I like to ponder, I guess.

-Viewing the Mayor signifies the impending arrival of, in many people’s collective opinion, the highlight of the entire parade:  the Carolina Basset Hound Rescue volunteers leading their furry friends.  There are always dozens of hounds in this group, some walking briskly along, their droopy ears nearly dragging the pavement, while others ride in decorated Red Rider wagons or upon floats. These guys pretty much stop everyone in their tracks briefly and elicit one of two visible facial expressions from literally every person in the audience:  a broad smile or a puffed out lip, normally reserved for those older or injured bassets who are along for the ride in the floats.  Either way, the audience always seems to want more.

-There are a lot of vehicles around the Holy City that appear to be an inch away from explosion.  Many of these vehicles participated in the parade.

-There are also a lot of vintage fire vehicles around the Holy City.  Each were decorated to the nines and comprised some of the most ‘quality’ looking apparatuses in the procession.  Whether they were equipped to handle potential circumstances involving the vehicles that appeared on the verge of destruction is unclear.

-There is a Beard and Mustache Championship this year.

-Clowns.  Lots of clowns.  I still hate clowns.

-Some of the Overlook Hotel’s former guests in The Shining were somehow able to enter despite being dressed in literally the most horrifyingly weird costumes I have possibly ever seen.  The effect on the audience was the polar opposite of the basset hounds.  I saw a kid crying.  Heck, I cried.

-Finally, as if we didn’t need any other reason to despise large banking institutions these days, a lavishly tapestried Wells Fargo carriage, pulled by handsome mares and filled with non-Santa passengers, completely showed up the Big Man himself in terms of presentation.  To be fair to Wells Fargo, it wasn’t extremely difficult to best Santa’s ride this year.  Many of the near-exploding vehicles mentioned earlier probably outdid him.

Santa rolled up in a sleigh pulled by nine rigor mortised reindeer that appear to have been constructed at the same time and location as the Hindenburg.  A few kids around us gasped in confusion (or horror, not sure).  The effect was somewhat deflating, extremely comical, and, upon reflection afterwards, a perfect summation of the parade as a whole.  I wouldn’t have wanted some extravagant sleigh.  This one seemed to fit the bill completely.  Great job by the organizers, participants, and jalopies for making this year’s Christmas Parade at least as entertaining as years past.

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As you could probably tell from many of our posts, we are big supporters of the whole “buy local” movement.  The support is rooted in equal parts preference for regionalism economics, a mild disdain for bloated franchises, and a genuine appreciation for the sort of intimate nuanced interactions and relationships one can forge with your local shop owners.

Lowcountry Local First kicked off their Buy Local Month initiative this past Monday.  Through December 15th, the organization is challenging Holy City residents to shift their purchasing habits at least 10% towards local businesses.  Their website details special deals from local participants and includes information on how and where to obtain a Buy Local Month card for additional discounts.

We can’t think of more apt opportunity to put on your buy local colors than a trip to the Farmers Market at Marion Square.  The market has been an asbolutely huge new staple in our lives this past summer, as the kitchen at Wentworth Street heated up with our ever-expanding cooking acumen.

But the Farmers Market is more than a plethora of earthly healthy goodness from local fields.  Its about creativity.  And any trip to Marion Square on a Saturday can yield some surprising finds from local artisans, from paintings and glassworks to jewelry and woodworks.  It’s the perfect place to find a locally made gift for someone this holiday season.

Just be swift about it.  The last Farmers Market of the season will be held on December 19th and it’s a long way to April.

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On two separate occasions this month, I have spent four hours on a Friday night hovering around a darkened street corner in a residential neighborhood, armed only with a flashlight to dispel the darkeness and make my presence known to pedestrians.

No, I have not cast my lot at trying gainful employment within the “world’s oldest profession.”  Instead, I was volunteering within parameters of a position established 34 years ago: street marshaling for the Annual Fall Tours of Homes and Gardens, organized by the Preservation Society of Charleston and held Thursday-Sunday until October 24th.

Being directionally-gifted, I coaxed the directionally-challenged Suzanne to accept a role of pointing people to lamplit historic abodes as opposed to standing within the households reading a brief history of an individual room for a tour group multiple times in a row.  The interactions were much more informal and brief than those involved with being a house guide, possibly due to the eerie pall surrounding us as tour goers approached cautiously in the coming blackness of evening.  Seriously, I felt like I was working in a haunted house.

For our efforts, we were rewarded with some entertaining conversations and vouchers to attend other sessions of the tour on other streets, which we used Saturday afternoon for an intimate look into some of the most prestiguous private spaces located within the Ansonborough neighborhood.

Having been inside dozens of Charleston’s finest architectural prototypes previously, I wasn’t so much impressed with the stylistic paradigms iterated on the papers the house guides were holding as much as I was the personal belongings of the property owners themselves.  Some of these homes were museum worthy for their collections of silver, ornamental rugs, antique furniture, and exotic foreign imports alone.  Absolutely jaw-dropping at times.

The allure of many of the garden spaces on the tour lacked a bit of luster for us, as they probably would for most Holy City residents who see grand examples of landscape architecture on a daily basis.  However, the garden of the Kohne-Leslie House at 72 Anson Street was very much an exception.  Enshrouded under an ample canopy afforded from a large live oak tree, the garden possessed many “rooms” while displaying the influence of a few different design theories and horticulturists.  A more detailed description with photographs (which we were forbidden to take while on tour) can be found in this excerpt from book The Secret Gardens of Charleston.

The tours were informative (in most cases) and great for any nerdy history buffs who enjoy learning the finer details of individual properties, those with a keen interest in preservationist methods, or those wanting to feel highfalutin for three hours in a city known for that type of glamour.

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Sometimes, I need to have more faith.

Sometimes, I need to just wait.

Sometimes, I need to just have more faith in Suzanne’s ideas for nightly activities and just wait to see how the activity rates on the meter-o-fun.

Saturday was a very busy day.  Between long bike rides, errands, and tours of homes and gardens, with an important football game for my alma mater on tap later in the evening, I wasn’t very much looking forward to our nighttime game plan: Kulture Klash.  Reading the description on the website Suz begged me to peruse for weeks, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  All I knew is the likelihood of finding a television to catch UK/Auburn was beyond remote and that solitary fact had soured my mood.

Then we arrived at the Navy Yard (which deserves a post in its own right).  And then I saw the error of my ways.

Point blank:  Kulture Klash is amazing.

Situated within a refurbished naval warehouse with a decidedly modern urbanist tilt of newly established offices, studio space, and retail, Kulture Klash brings together a multitude of local and regional artists, performers, and a synergy of ideas to create a completely unique experience in the context of the Holy City.  This isn’t art like Spoleto does art.  This is art like indie does art.  And it does it well, as the entire event seemed effortlessly united under an umbrella of off-kilter inspiration and good vibes that transcended generational differences.

Painters demonstrated their abilities on blank canvases, urban street dancers broke it down impromptu, roller derby girls put on a show, all types of music genres blared, and New Belgium Lips of Faith Belgo (a new favorite) flowed freely throughout the night.

I was utterly shocked at how much fun I had at Kulture Klash.  There was just so much to see.  Every time I glanced from side to side, I would notice a new piece of art on the wall or something different occurring that I hadn’t previously noticed.

Suzanne’s ideas of fun are nearly universally spot on, a fact I tend to forget, and this one was her best find yet.  If you have a pulse, attend the next Kulture Klash.  You won’t regret it.

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After having our local economy faith revived at the Lowcountry Local First Revival on Thursday, we walked a couple of short blocks to Marion Square to sample brews and artistic endeavors at the New Belgium Brewery Clips of Faith Beer and Film Tour, benefiting local healthy lifestyle advocates Charleston Moves.  The Holy City was the penultimate stop in a 20 city tour that took the group across the country.

Under the hue of a full moon intermittently shielded by cumulus clouds in one of those halcyon scenes the in which a Lowcountry evening is always depicted, we were treated to a series of amateur films promoting New Belgium’s products through interpretations of their marketing philosophy, as well as some hilarious shorts regarding bicycle safety.  Many of the films were extremely impressive (check some out on the link provided above) and really made me realize how utterly untalented I am with certain mediums compared to many of these filmmakers as well as some local bloggers.  We unfortunately did not get an opportunity to try any of the cleverly named Lips of Faith homemade beers available, concocted by the members of the brewery’s growing faithful following, but overheard many positive remarks on several.

The event was exceptionally low-key, almost as if the organizers were sitting around at 3 PM that afternoon sipping coffee when one of proposed a get-together to watch a bunch of short films over some brews with whoever happened to show up.  Though that wasn’t actually the case (we did only see our first advertisement for the event that morning, however), the laid back feeling it pervaded was a perfect ending to our Thursday night and had us immediately keeping our eyes peeled for a similar future event.

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