Columbia’s in a festival spirit

otaylor May 18, 2012 

  • Vista queen The annual drag pageant of novice drag queens will be at 7 p.m. Monday at Trustus Theatre. Somehow Larry Hembree, the theater’s new executive director, talked me into participating. (Think I should start practicing my act yet, especially since I wrote about how hard it is to walk in heels last month? It’s going to be a long weekend.) The other contestants in the 14th annual pageant: Tom Hall, a lawyer, musician, filmmaker and original member of the Krewe de Columbi-Ya-Ya, the organizers behind Mardi Gras Columbia; Chris Bickel, a musician and host of Mr. B’s Goodtime Karaoke; Anderson Burns, a WOLO-25 anchor and creator of “Hidden Columbia” reports; John Sherrer, Historic Columbia’s director of cultural resources; and Gerald Floyd, a longtime theater actor and educator. Wait, Gerald is in this? He’s one of the few performers in town who can carry a one-man show. In the March production of “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” all he had to do was walk on the stage to get the audience laughing. Admittedly, he looked hilarious in the space-alien-leader costume. But still, how is that fair? It really doesn’t matter, because this isn’t about a crown; it’s a fundraiser for Trustus. (I believed that until I typed it.) This year’s theme, according to a press release, is “(Vista) Queen of the Night,” a tribute to the late Whitney Houston. I’ll be channeling two pop divas with my character, but I won’t reveal who here. This year’s judges: City Councilman Cameron Runyan; Debbie McDaniel, owner of Revente and Revente’s Last Call, the show’s sponsors; Sarah Luadzers, executive director of the Congaree Vista Guild; Robbie Robertson, a screenwriter and playwright; Patti O’Furniture, this competition’s ultimate bridesmaid; and Michelle Moore, a local realtor. The winner will be selected based on a combination of the judges’ scoring and the amount of money the contestant raises. Last year’s winner was Jeffrey Day. I’m not lobbying, but Trustus will accept donations by visiting the theater from 1-6 tonight and Saturday; by calling (803) 254-9732; or by mailing a check to the theater at 520 Lady St., Columbia, SC, 29201. The doors open for Vista Queen at 6 p.m. and the event starts at 7 p.m. $35, which includes

FESTIVE COLUMBIA: Columbia will learn if it can sustain a three-day music festival once again.

The Famously Hot Music Festival, which was announced last week, will be held August 24-26 in Finlay Park. The last three-day outdoor event in Columbia was the 3 Rivers Music Festival. After seven years the festival ended in 2006, which I thought was easily its best year.

A comparison is inevitable, but The Famously Hot Music Festival is indeed different. Whereas 3 Rivers had various music genres represented daily, Famously Hot will focus on a single genre each day — electronic dance music, or EDM, Friday; rock on Saturday; and Sunday it’s country.

“I like the idea of appealing to different audiences with different musical tastes,” said Dave Stewart of SS Productions, the festival’s organizer. “We wanted to be able to focus on a particular type music and give people what they want to hear.”

Stewart is host of “The S&M Morning Show,” WARQ-FM Rock 93.5’s morning program, but this isn’t a radio station event.

3 Rivers booked headliners such as OutKast, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Widespread Panic and Ludacris. Famously Hot is aiming high, but SS isn’t trying to break the bank.

“If you’re not in L.A., you don’t have a budget to get the big, heavy hitters,” Stewart said.

Unlike 3 Rivers, Famously Hot won’t have hip-hop on the schedule. Stewart has booked some performers, but he wouldn’t reveal them on the record because contracts haven’t been signed. Ticket prices won’t be set until the lineup is confirmed.

Stewart did say there will be five performers each day. The festival will run from 2-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1-9 p.m. Sunday. Charles Wilkie is assisting Stewart with booking and Brad Crouch with staging. When asked the festival’s budget, Stewart wouldn’t divulge the amount. But he did say his company is taking the risk and, unlike 3 Rivers, not using any city money. (Columbia City Council approved the festival last week.)

Why take the risk?

“I think Columbia is a good music town, and I’m hoping the people will come out to support it,” he said. “Our fingers are crossed. Hopefully the weather will cooperate.”

School will be in session, and it’s the last weekend before the football season begins. For more, visit

FESTIVE COLUMBIA 2: The Famously Hot Music Festival isn’t the only festival on the city’s entertainment radar. Here are three more.

Cola-Con: The hip-hop and comic book celebration will be held Oct. 5-6 at the Columbia Museum of Art. Phife from A Tribe Called Quest is a scheduled performer. A discounted, two-day pass is available for $35 through June 8. A pajama dance party will be held May 25 at 701 Whaley to raise money for Cola-Con;

Columbia Hip-Hop Family Day: It will be held in September, and it will be outdoors. That’s all the information one of the organizers, Shekeese Tha Beast, would share with me.

The Jam Room Music Festival: The festival, to celebrate 25 years of music recording at the Rosewood Drive studio, will be held Oct. 13 on Main Street.

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