Saturday is one of those days where you look at the calendar of events in the Midlands and regret that you can’t do them all.
C’mon! You’re giving up without trying!
Strap on those walking shoes and that festival-food feedbag Saturday and strike out on a special Midlands event marathon.
Start out at Finlay Park for the Walk For Life/Race For Life, one of the largest charity events in Columbia each year. It’s a great way to start the day, stretching your legs while raising money for the Palmetto Health Breast Center. You might want to grab an energy bar, but eat light early. You’ll have plenty of chances to chow down later. It’s going to be a long day, so pick the 5K run over the 10K. Even if you jog slowly, you should be done by 9:15 a.m.
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Jump in your vehicle and hustle down Bluff Road to Congaree National Park for SwampFest. You should arrive in time for the 10 a.m. Maroon Community Walk, a ranger-guided tour that focuses on the formerly enslaved people who lived in the area in the 1800s. Consider this your cool-down walk from the 5K.
By now, you’re famished, and there’s food and gospel music at the nearby Mt. Moriah Baptist Church. But you must avoid the temptation to stay all day in the swamp. You still have a busy day ahead, so drive back up Bluff Road to I-77. Get off on Exit 2 and head up 12th Street Extension to Cayce City Hall for the Congaree Bluegrass Festival, which starts at 11 a.m. Sip on a sweet tea, grab a light festival-food snack (if there is such a thing), tap your foot to a few songs, then return to the road.
Head west on I-77 and then U.S. 321 to the hinterlands of Lexington County and the Gaston Collard & BBQ Festival. You’ll miss the antique tractors in the morning parade, but you’ll arrive in time to chow down on barbecue and collards. Take a few minutes to enjoy the crafts and the free rides, then it’s back to the road.
Head back to I-26 and north toward Newberry for Newberry Oktoberfest on the town square. You’ll be too late for the 11:30 a.m. liver nips cook-off, but there will be plenty of German food, a biergarten and tours of the historic Newberry Opera House.
The designated driver then takes the wheel as you drive on S.C. 34 to Camden. Along the way, you pass Winnsboro, where you just missed the second day of the Rock Around the Clock Festival in Winnsboro. If you fight through the festival marathon pain for a final few miles, you can relax to the whaling guitars at the Carolina Downhome Blues Festival in Camden until 11 p.m.
When you head home, you might notice a big slug of traffic going the other way. That’s some of the 80,000 people who saved their energy early in the day so they could tailgate and cheer for the University of South Carolina at a 7 p.m. football game at Williams-Brice Stadium against Kentucky. While there’s at least a chance the Gamecocks could lose, there are no losers in the Midlands event marathon.
Carolina Downhome Blues Festival: Music, food, 810 Lyttleton St., Camden, 10 a.m.-11:45 p.m. (also 5:30-11 p.m. Thursday, 9:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday), www.fineartscenter.org