Traffic crunch in downtown Columbia is now

jmonk@thestate.comMay 3, 2013 

Democratic and Republican events, Carolina baseball game, torch run from downtown to Ft. Jackson for the Special Olympics, Cinco De Mayo at the State Museum plus Kenny Chesney.

THE STATE

— Motorists planning to drive in the downtown Columbia area Friday night and Saturday morning will likely see a mad crush of unusually heavy traffic.

“Give yourself more time to arrive safely,” Columbia police spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said. ”We ask all drivers to have patience.”

The megacluster of big-draw weekend events, including Saturday’s all-day Kenny Chesney concert at Williams-Brice Stadium, will bring tens of thousands of extra vehicles to the city. Forty-five thousand people will be at the Chesney concert alone.

Beginning Friday evening, these events include:

•  6 p.m. Friday. Torch-bearing runners leave the State House on Gervais Street heading to Fort Jackson to open the S.C. Special Olympics Summer Games.

•  7 p.m. Friday. University of South Carolina baseball team hosts Vanderbilt at Carolina Stadium in Olympia. Eight thousand fans are expected.

•  7 p.m. Friday. S.C. Democratic Convention opens at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in the Vista. Vice President Joe Biden is expected to speak at annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner. He’ll arrive earlier – no one will say when – via a high-security motorcade traveling from the Columbia Metropolitan Airport.

•  7 p.m. Friday. S.C. Republican Silver Elephant Dinner at the State Fairgrounds. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., is the featured speaker.

•  7:30 p.m. Friday. Rep. Jim Clyburn’s, D-S.C., annual Fish Fry Dinner, Carolina Field House, 941 S. Stadium Rd.

•  9:30 a.m. Saturday. S.C. Democratic Convention reconvenes at convention center.

•  10 a.m. Saturday. Warm-up bands open Kenny Chesney’s 5 p.m. concert at Williams-Brice.

•  10 a.m. Saturday. S.C. Republican convention opens at Carolina Coliseum in the Vista. U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to speak.

•  10:45 a.m. Saturday. A Cinco de Mayo festival opens at the S.C. State Museum on Gervais Street in the Vista. This is the museum’s first Cinco de Mayor festival, and no one knows how many people will come.

•  Noon Saturday. USC baseball team plays Vanderbilt at Carolina Stadium.

In addition to these events, there will be the usual crowd-drawing Saturday morning farmers markets on Main Street and at the 701 Whaley building in Olympia.

Although portions of the six-lane Assembly Street – a major north-south corridor – have been closed lately from USC School of Music to the Strom Thurmond Wellness Center for construction work, all six lanes will be open Friday and Saturday, USC officials said.

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