COLUMBIA, SC — A fledgling effort is under way to revive the failed 3 Rivers Music Festival.
Supporters outlined their plan to Columbia City Council on Tuesday in a prelude to seeking money for a gathering with the same name but a somewhat different format.
The plan calls for the outdoor festival to take place July 12-13 at a former racetrack in Cayce and in downtown Columbia, possibly in Finlay Park or in the Vista.
Major changes include switching the event from spring to mid-summer, keeping it to 10 groups and spreading it over two sites to appeal to families and aficionados.
The new approach can resurrect a festival that flopped, said Sandra Sims, a caterer who is spearheading the effort.
“This can help make Columbia a showcase for music,” Sims said.
Her push is getting assistance from promoters associated with similar events in Atlanta.
Backers estimate the new version can be put on for $500,000, with half of the money coming from corporate sponsors.
The group’s focus will be on jazz, country, pop and rhythm and blues music. But organizers are mum on performers they hope to attract.
The goal is to lure listeners ages 34-55, the group said in a report to council members.
“Doing this is a challenge, but that doesn’t mean somebody shouldn’t try,” said Fred Monk, one of the organizers for the first 3 Rivers, when contacted after the meeting. “Maybe they can find the right mix.”
Attendance at the new version would be free. But organizers plan to sell tickets for after-parties and other events that organizers hope will feature musicians. Money also could come from food and crafts vendors who participate to sell their wares.
The group also intends to apply for an unknown amount of aid from city leaders.
Mayor Steve Benjamin is interested in bringing back the festival but warned “the financial plan used before didn’t work.”
The 3 Rivers Music Festival ran from 2000 to 2007 and suffered increasingly poor attendance and steady red ink despite nationally known headliners. Some criticized its reliance on public money.
Storms occurred during four of its seven editions, generally held over three days in the spring in the Vista.
Sims’ group is free to use the same name since it is no longer legally protected with the extinction of the first version of the festival.
“There’s a lot of things that need to come together,” said Monk, who is unfamiliar with the group seeking to revive the festival. “But I’m not going to shoot down anybody’s dream.”
Sims may have insights developed from her time providing food at the previous festival and her connections developed in catering other large events around the Midlands, he said.
City leaders in Cayce couldn’t be reached for comment on the plan and whether they would be willing to chip in financial aid.
Events there would be held on a former speedway on Charleston Highway that is now a privately owned site leased for outdoor gatherings.
Many outdoor music festivals in Columbia have struggled.
A small music festival in the Midlands last summer without major stars experienced low attendance.
Mayfest, once a flagship city celebration in the Vista that featured music, disappeared in 2000 despite free attendance.
Staff writer Otis Taylor contributed to this story. Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.