Some festivals and celebrations that have left a legacy ....
Vista Lights, the city’s popular November kickoff for the Christmas holiday season since its tiny debut in December 1987. Features nighttime shopping, marshmallow roasting and the lighting of “Columbia’s Christmas tree” in front of the River Runner’s red, blue and orange canoes .... (sooo Vista).
Artista Vista. Galleries offer special shows and art installations pop up in outdoor spaces for this event held each April since 1991. (Keeping it edgy one year meant nudity and a fire that almost torched a warehouse, all in the name of performance art.).
Viva La Vista, Columbia’s premier food festival, held in September. The festival has its roots in the late ’80s as a street fair but was revived in 2008 as a food event. Features lots of live music and delicacies from two dozen or so of the Vista’s – and Columbia’s – finest restaurants.
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3 Rivers Music Festival. It was good while it lasted, supporters say. Lacking in cutting-edge acts but fun nonetheless, this three-day festival in April featured national acts and lots of healthy walking, as the stages stretched across streets and parks. Too expensive, said city officials, who pulled the plug in 2007 after a strong start in 2000.
MayFest. Popular, free, three-day festival that started off on the State House grounds in the ’80s then moved to Finlay Park, blossoming when the city offered few other music-heavy events. Killed after 2000 by rain, debt and smaller crowds after the advent of 3 Rivers.
Riverfest. Held at Riverfront Park beginning in 1986, even before the area was called “the Congaree Vista.” After a looong abandonment, this was Columbia’s reintroduction to its downtown rivers. Ended in 2009.
River Rocks music festival. The latest bash, held April 13, was the third for this annual Congaree Riverkeeper fundraiser at Riverfront Park.
Shakespeare in the Park. OK, not a festival, but so, so good. And free. Put on by the South Carolina Shakespeare Co. since 1990. At Finlay Park’s amphitheater.