COLUMBIA, SC — If you’re going to the St. Pat’s in Five Points festival, you better have everything you need when you walk through the gate.
For the first time, the festival will not allow re-entry.
Once you leave, that is it. Unless, of course, you’re willing to pay $15 for a new ticket.
Amy Beth Franks, executive director of the Five Points Association, said the change is designed to keep party-goers safer. Besides, it’s the industry standard; sports, major music festivals and other big-time events don’t allow people to come and go, either, she said.
“The driving force behind no re-entry is safety,” Franks said. “I hope people are more understanding than angry about re-entry.”
The 32nd annual festival, set for Saturday, also includes a change everyone can toast: It lasts an hour longer. Gates will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The extra hour allows bands more time to play and gives stage crews a little more time to change sets for the next artist, Franks said.
Five Points party planners expect more than 40,000 green-clad revelers to flood the area for music, beer and food. The festival is becoming one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the Southeast.
As a result, the festival is maturing. Hence, the no re-entry policy.
Franks said she called colleagues who organize other festivals to seek their advice.
“I had people say, ‘You mean it’s not already no re-entry?’” she said. “There are very few festivals that are not no re-entry now.”
People most likely to be disappointed are those who live near Five Points and host parties at their homes. In the past, friends came and went all day, using those nearby parties as a place to take a break from the festival. They also used those parties as a chance to drink more alcohol and then head back to Five Points.
“It seems the people most upset over the no re-entry policy are the students at USC,” Franks said.
But the new policy will allow police and private security to better monitor who is coming and going.
In the past, people were screened the first time they went through the festival gates but not necessarily when they came back, interim Columbia Police Chief Ruben Santiago said. Instead, those returning just showed an arm band and walked in.
Now, everyone inside will have been screened, eliminating the risk of bringing contraband, Santiago said. The policy also keeps people from leaving so they can drink more or use drugs before coming back, he said.
“We know that everybody who is in there has been through security,” he said.
Franks also hopes the no re-entry policy curbs some of the disturbances the festival causes in surrounding neighborhoods. There should be fewer people walking through yards and less trash.
St. Pat’s in Five Points logistics
Going to the party Saturday? Here are some things you need to know:
Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for festival. Road race starts at 7:30 a.m. Parade begins at 10 a.m. Pot O’ Gold Playland in MLK Park opens at 10 a.m.
Shuttles: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Capital City Stadium along Assembly Street, Park Street behind the Koger Center and Hand Middle School along Devine Street. Shuttles run every 20 minutes. ID check for those 21 and older available at shuttle stops.
Gates: Wells Fargo at Blossom Street and Saluda Avenue; Blossom and Harden streets; Devine Street near Jake’s; Santee Avenue behind Harper’s restaurant; Greene Street near Salty Nut; and Harden Street in front of Chik-Fil-A.
Taxis: Pick up at Harden and College streets, Blossom Street near Wells Fargo, and Devine Street near Jake’s. Checker Yellow and the Five Points Foundation will cover the first $10 of your fare home or to a hotel.
Emergencies: The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina comfort zone will be at the Five Points Fountain. Chairs, cots, water and first aid will be available.
Other things to know: There will be four food courts with seating. Festival programs with schedules and maps will be given to all entrants. As usual, don’t bring weapons, coolers, alcohol, drugs, dogs or fireworks. No re-entry allowed.
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.