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SUPER SATURDAY: Columbia International Festival, Bark to the Park draw big crowds (+ videos)

mbergen@thestate.com

Columbia’s hip and proud of it.

Kevin Felder has to feel comfortable taking his kids to hip-hop events, where he performs as the Christian rapper Big Redd.

Saturday’s Love, Peace & Hip Hop festival in downtown Columbia was that kind of event for the Felder family.

“Often, when people think ‘hip hop,’ they think of the negative images that are portrayed, and an event like this says the exact opposite,” Felder said.

A Columbia native and Dreher High School graduate, Felder was the first Christian rapper invited to perform at the annual hip-hop family festival, he said. Holding his 3-year-old son, Benjamin, with beats, rhymes and rhythms thumping around them, Felder praised the event for bringing the community together and shining a positive light on the hip-hop culture.

“People are out here from strollers to wheelchairs,” he said. “I think it just shows the commitment people have to positive events in our community.”

The event was sponsored in part by Indie Grits, which also sponsored Kindie Grits on Main Street in the morning. Kindie Grits allowed kids to animate their own short movies by drawing on film. Indie Grits continues Sunday.

Quarry Crusher Run

Hundreds huffed and puffed their way up the steep and dusty slopes of the Vulcan Quarry in Columbia’s Olympia neighborhood on Saturday during the grueling Quarry Crusher Run.

The run was part of Olympia Fest, an annual celebration of all things about Olympia, a former mill village that’s now home to saltbox homes and student apartments.

The festival was one of the many popular events being held on another Super Saturday in the Midlands.

Columbia International Festival

It’s proving to be a small world, after all, at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds this weekend where the global sights, sounds, flavors and cultures of the world are being showcased at the 20th anniversary of the Columbia International Festival.

The popular International Festival, which runs Saturday and Sunday, again is drawing hundreds to the Cantey Building and surrounding grounds as residents embrace the area’s diverse backgrounds, many of which are being reflected by guests and presenters alike.

“People come here to enjoy the world’s cultures,” said long-time festival director Raj Aluri. “Many come here to celebrate their own cultures and enjoy others as well.”

This year’s event is focusing on the Philippine and South Pacific Islands, but the weekend activities feature a range of stage shows, exhibits, artwork and authentic cuisine from more than 60 cultures across the globe.

In addition to the main stage where several cultural dances are being performed, various fashions of the world are on display along with various international merchandise that is up for sale.

Aluri said the world’s diversity is reflected heavily in the local community, noting some 200 cultures representing 75 languages are present in the Columbia area.

“We are a very multicultural community and society,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for us to appreciate each others’ culture and backgrounds.”

West Columbia resident Darlene Cox said the festival gives her a welcome opportunity to enjoy entertainment from different countries in one location.

The festival continues through 6 p.m. Sunday.

Bark to the Park

Droves of canines – all quite well behaved – ushered their owners and other animal lovers to Finlay Park on Saturday morning for Columbia’s annual Bark to the Park walk.

The annual Pawmetto Lifeline fundraiser supports the agency’s efforts to help save homeless pets across the Midlands.

Charlie and Kristi Barber of Columbia and their dogs, Winnie and Wylie, were among the 1,700 registered participants in the morning event that included a 11/2-mile walk around the park along Richland, Calhoun, Gadsden, Lady and Lincoln streets. The walk was followed by a long list of pet-friendly activities inside the park, including games, dog tricks, displays, vendors and more.

The Barbers were talking part in Bark to the Park for the first time this year.

“We just thought it was such a great event,” Charlie Barber said. “There are so many dogs that need rescuing.”

While many participants took part individually, scores more entered as teams. Collectively, they were expressing their support for the more than 17,000 dogs and and cats that enter municipal shelters in Richland and Lexington counties each year.

Supporters hope that efforts like Saturday’s will significantly reduce the number of animals euthanized each year due to lack of space and resources. The long-term goal is to transform the Midlands into a no-kill community, meaning no healthy adoptable pet is euthanized just because it’s homeless.

Girls Golf Day

Why should guys like Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy get all the attention in the golf sphere?

Anything they can do, girls can do, too – that’s the message Columbia wants to send its young girls as it registers its first LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program site.

The program, hosted at the Clyburn Golf Center, held a day of activities and instruction Saturday for girls ranging from kindergarten to high school who are interested in the sport.

“It’s just really about letting girls play some golf, have some fun, try it,” said Sally McDaniel, the golf program supervisor for the city Parks and Recreation department and director of The First Tee of Columbia. “We have a lot of people who have never picked up a club before, so it’s just (about) let’s make it fun.”

Nine-year-old Leilani Westlund was not one of those learning the sport for the first time. She was focused and confident as she practiced her full swing Saturday, getting instruction on how to improve her form.

Westlund enjoys watching and playing golf with her dad and two brothers, but she was happy to get to play with other girls for a change, she said.

“I like swinging the club because it just makes me feel powerful that I can hit the ball really hard,” Leilani said. “For me and some girls to get to go golf, it’s really fun, because I’m not the only girl here golfing.”

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