The S.C. State House will be open for weekly Saturday free public tours starting July 12, legislators decided Thursday.
The State House will open from 10 a.m.-4 p..m. on Saturdays along with the gift shop. The State House will be closed on the Saturdays after Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"It’s a big event for Columbia," said Duane Parish, director of the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism who added hotels can tout the regular weekend tours to the area's 4 million annual visitors.
The State House now is open tours during weekdays and the first Saturday of each month. More than 100 visitors come to State House on average during Saturdays, state officials said. The State House was open on all Saturdays after the historic site was renovated in the late 1990s, but small crowds and budget constraints led to limiting tours.
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The state tourism agency believes it could break even with sales from the gift shop. But providing security will cost about $30,000 a year, said Leroy Smith, director S.C. Department of Public Safety.
The money was not budgeted next year and could hurt the agency's bottom line, Smith told the State House Committee.
But legislators, who kept referring to the State House as "the people's house," told Smith to find the money, perhaps with help of the state tourism agency.
"We'll find a way to make it happen – for the people," Smith replied.