Musician, filmmaker, activist and community organizer Tom Hall is known for starting things.
He is co-founder of the Mardi Gras Columbia Parade & Music Festival at City Roots Farm, set this year for Saturday, Feb. 25. He also leads the Americana band The Plowboys.
Hall recently renovated a historic manor house in Ridgeway, transforming it into Magnolia Farm, a working farm, music venue and home to the Barclay School for kids with special needs.
After filming legislators for four years to create the documentary film “Compromised,” about the history of the Confederate battle flag in South Carolina, Hall co-organized the 2015 rallies at the capitol to call for its removal. During the historic flood of 2015, Hall and his wife, Julie, made national news for saving a traveler stranded in floodwaters near their home. Soon after, Hall co-produced the Big Dam Jam flood relief benefit.
After Mardi Gras, Hall will focus on NoMa Revival, a new restaurant, butcher shop, beer garden and event space he is opening with chef Kristian Niemi on North Main Street.
There are so many wonderful places to eat in Columbia: El Burrito, 116 State brunch, late night at The Whig, duck rolls at The Kraken and boudin balls at Bourbon, as well as Real Mexico, The War Mouth and Bar None. The Farm to Table events at City Roots are always elegant, rustic and inspired. Every year, I look forward to Bovinoche, a benefit for Barclay School where top chefs Kristian Niemi and Jeff Bannister roast a whole cow at Magnolia Farm.
I begin most mornings with Drip coffee. I like to sit at the perfect bar corner at Hunter-Gatherer to drink wheat beers. I love Henry slinging old-fashioneds at the warm bar at The War Mouth. When feeling literary or activist-like, The Whig is a perfect place to drink local while chatting with bartender Will Green. When it’s sunny, it’s Craft and Draft. I love Big John serving bourbon at Henry’s on Monday and good ol’ Andy with fancy wine at Terra. Bierkeller pop-up beer gardens are the best in the world.
I love rafting and fly fishing on the Saluda, boating on the Broad and Congaree, and hunting and fishing all over the Midlands. My first loves are horses and bird dogs at Magnolia Farm in Ridgeway, highlighted by the annual Bird Dog Revival, where we bring dogs, horses and sporting enthusiasts from all over to educate folks about field trialing and land management for wildlife. I also love to tailgate at Williams-Brice. Everyone knows me as Tom Hall, but I rarely share that I am Thomas Brice Hall, my great-uncle Thomas Brice’s namesake, and it makes me very proud to stand in the shadow of the stadium that he and his wife, Martha Williams, made possible.
In addition to my band of 15 years, the Plowboys, I love to hear any show at New Brookland Tavern, from Frank Black to North Mississippi Allstars, to my favorite locals Can’t Kids, Say Brother and Those Lavender Whales, and I’m happy about the resurrection of the late-night shows at Hunter-Gatherer. We have had magical outdoor shows at Magnolia Farm, hosting greats such as Peter Rowan and Larry Keel. I have seen awesome shows this year at Music Farm, and at open mic night at Foxfield, but my annual favorite is Mardi Gras at City Roots, which is free and hosts more than 20 bands every year, making it the highlight of the music in our town.
I love to see our capitol without the Confederate Battle Flag. I love to see the art and what’s new at the Columbia Museum of Art. Because it is our greatest asset, I love to see the river from the Gervais Street Bridge Dinner. I love to wander the state capitol (grounds) late at night and feel the presence of the beaux arts statues. I love the flooded streets of people at Soda City Market, which has changed our town.