Festivals pull in the crowds on beautiful fall day in downtown Columbia

ccope@thestate.comSeptember 28, 2013 

— Saturday in downtown Columbia was a day for festivals.

Early in the morning, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple feathers formed wings on the back of Heather Vandenham.

Her hair was dyed five bright colors to match.

The colorful display was not leftover stains from the color run she participated in earlier Saturday morning. The rainbow colors were worn for Columbia’s S.C. Pride parade and festival.

The 27-year-old Vandenham was with her T.J. Maxx coworkers showing their support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

She said her company supports diversity.

“They don’t look down on anyone because of how they look or what they are,” she said.

Diversity was evident on Main Street as the daylong festival celebrated this year’s theme: A Part Not Apart.

The event is an opportunity for businesses to show support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender South Carolinians, said Ryan Harman, who coordinated the vendors for the event.

It is also an opportunity for the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community to support the businesses who support them.

The Italian community in Columbia also found a festival where it could feel at home.

The Rizzo family just moved to Sumter from Pittsburgh, and since they missed the Italian festival in Pittsburgh, they attended the one in Columbia on Saturday, said Kristin Rizzo.

Rizzo brothers Tyler, 3, and Ethan, 6, played bocce for the first time at the Italian Festival downtown on Blanding Street. The boys have played it before only on the Wii, their mom said.

WATCH the boys play bocce:

The boys’ dad is Italian, and they used to go to a place in Pittsburgh where they could make pasta.

“They love learning about their dad’s culture,” she said.

Italian culture and food, and even some history, were on display at the festival, which this year was held on the grounds of the historic Robert Mills House on Blanding Street.

Evan Schultheis was dressed as a Roman solider and told Daniel Frye about the Roman Empire after the western half of the empire fell.

Schultheis said the chainmail he was wearing weighed about 15 pounds, and he had on padding underneath.

“It’s a little hot, but it’s not uncomfortable,” he said.

Lewis Hayes was also dressed as a Roman solider, and people kept taking their pictures with him.

Around noon he was starting to get hungry.

“Time to feed the troops,” he joked.

A couple of miles away, a couple of hours after lunchtime, the Rosewood Arts Festival was bustling.

Artists gathered near Rockaway Athletic Club neighborhood Saturday to sell and create art.

Simon Graham is a 72-year-old wood carver who began his hobby after checking a book out at the library a few years ago.

He had his carvings displayed and said he sold a few pieces earlier in the day. But his 13-year-old grandson Houston Moore joking tried to take credit.

“I’m the talent behind all of this,” Moore said.

However, Graham won’t let his grandson use the wood carving tools.

“I don’t want him to go home missing something” like a finger or limb, Graham said.

Houston enjoyed the festival. His favorite part was painting on a dumpster in what was called “authorized vandalism,” he said.

At the dumpster, artist Marcee Musgrove painted a white lotus.

Reach Cope at 803-771-8657 or on Twitter @cassielcope.

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