Food, fun and The Wailers: Viva La Vista returns Saturday

acoyne@thestate.comSeptember 5, 2013 


Nearly 10,000 people are expected to head downtown Saturday for a taste — or two, or three — of the Vista’s finest food and drinks.

Viva La Vista, now in its sixth year, will feature the sweet, savory and salty of the neighborhood, which has 60 bars and restaurants. Of those, 17 will be offering sample-sized appetizers, entrees, desserts and drinks, as well as welcoming patrons inside for the full-sized versions.

“There’s sushi, pizza ... everyone will find something, if not 10,” said Sarah Lewis, executive director of the Vista Guild. “For many of the restaurants, this is the biggest or next biggest day of the year, both on the streets and in the stores.”

The Vista has been slowly emerging as a tourist destination for Columbia. Yearly, 3 million visitors come for the food and waterfront fun, yielding $1.2 billion in hospitality tax revenue. The Vista’s hotels, many within walking distance to the University of South Carolina, are at 90 percent capacity throughout the year, Lewis said.

Viva La Vista is one tool that keeps those visitors — new and old, locals and out-of-towners — coming back for one more bite of Columbia.

“A lot of people are foodies, and they really want to try samples of the food our restaurants have to offer,” Lewis said.

A wine garden, featuring 20 fine red and white wines, will also set Viva La Vista apart from other festivals.

“People don’t always want to drink beer all the time. I know I don’t,” Lewis said.

Those over age 21 can pay $10 for the 20 available samples. Customers can exit the canopy at Gervais and Lincoln streets and re-enter the line as well, if they’d like to pair their wine sample with a certain type of cuisine.

But this year, the food won’t be the only draw.

While Viva La Vista has featured live music before, Lewis said they’re branching out beyond the typical group of local artists.

Headlining are The Wailers, the reggae group best known for working with the late Bob Marley.

“They’re absolutely internationally renowned and loved,” Lewis said. “Maybe they’ll open this up to a new group of people who may not have come down before.”

The lineup varies greatly in genre and origin; the eight bands represent everywhere from Columbia to Jamaica and play rock, reggae, rockabilly and even kids’ music.

“We’ve always had a mixture of musicians, many of them small, local bands,” Lewis said. “This time, we’re going to expand a bit.”

Another change to Viva La Vista is the switch from token currency to cash. This will allow vendors to keep more in their own pockets, as well as allow the festival to charge an admission fee. The advance cost is $10, and those arriving at the festival will pay $12 for entry.

If you go

Viva La Vista

When: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday

Where: On Lincoln, between Lady and Senate streets


A link to the Viva La Vista map is with this story at

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