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Festival to showcase Chester's best

The Arts Council in Chester County wants to show off the city of Chester - its history, southern cooking and artwork - during a three-day festival.

With unemployment around 20 percent in the county, the news is often sobering.

Each year, South Carolina's Humanities Council awards a grant for a different community to showcase itself through a festival. Its 17th annual festival is being held in historic downtown Chester from Thursday through Saturday.

Chester's first arts-focused festival includes a carriage tour through Chester's historic downtown, the screening of a Chester filmmaker's movie, a farmer's dinner, a concert and a grant-writing workshop for cultural organizations.

Arts Council director Lauren Medlin said she and an active board of directors helped to revive and reinvent Chester's council that almost went under.

"Being chosen as the host site for the festival is a real achievement for us," Medlin said. "It's showcasing Chester - the community, history and other organizations in town."

Randy Akers, executive director of the Humanities Council of South Carolina, said they chose Chester this year because its an area the council has underserved. The last three festivals, which were designed to highlight rural communities, were hosted by Bennettsville, Lake City and Newberry.

The festival is designed to share the history and culture of that community to those who live in the area and some visitors, Akers said.

The Humanities Council is aware of Chester's economic state, but Akers said that's not why the city was selected to host the festival.

"We're pleased we can help provide an economic boost for the weekend," he said.

Medlin, who took over the council last year, said it needed new leadership to keep it from folding.

"We hear all the time that if it wasn't for us, there wouldn't be anything to do in Chester," she said.

Chester's arts council typically hosts events such as home tours, an oyster festival, art classes and exhibits, but the Humanities Council's grant allows the council to put on free events this week it wouldn't have been able to do on its own, Medlin said.

Some of the free events include a screening of Chester filmmaker Pete Stone's new family movie entitled "David's Boat: Voyage of the Swamp Fox" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

For Medlin, the highlight of the festival is a nearly-sold-out concert Friday when Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs will perform at the War Memorial Building. That event also features a cookout by a local restaurant, The Summit.

Also on tap will be the Farmer's Dinner with an area farmer and author as its speaker, Akers said. As a Columbia resident, Akers said he's interested in the tour-guided carriage ride to learn about historic downtown Chester on Saturday morning.

"It's a chance to highlight the community and the arts council," he said.

Want to go?

What: Chester Arts & Humanities Festival

When: Thursday through Saturday

More information:

Complete schedule, 6A


2:30 to 4 p.m.: FREE GRANT WRITING WORKSHOP about cultural grants taught by Humanities SC director Randy Akers. Jean White Room at Chester County Library. Reservations requested.

5 to 7 p.m.: OPENING CEREMONY & ART IN THE PARK at Arts Council. Several artists will display their work, including Holly Glasscock, who will paint live. Catered reception provided. Opening ceremony is 6 p.m. inside the gallery, including a foreword by Akers and a special re-dedication of the gallery. Past & present board members will be recognized.

7:30 to 8:30 p.m.: FREE MOVIE NIGHT. Premiere of Chester filmmaker Pete Stone's new family movie entitled "David's Boat: Voyage of the Swamp Fox." Information on this 2010 movie is on War Memorial Building. Popcorn provided. Kids can bring floor pillows.


10 a.m. to 1 p.m.: YOUTH ART ACTIVITIES. The Arts Council in Chester County has teamed up with 4-H to present this 2-part art class at The Market Building on 116 Columbia St. 4-H agent Robin Currence will teach "Nature in the Trees: Birds & Leaves & 4-H" from 10 to 11:30 a.m.; and artist Renee Wright will teach "Pastel Drawing & Painting" from 11:30 to 1 p.m. Suggested ages are 6 to 12. $20 per person; all supplies included. Only 20 seats available. Registration deadline is today. Call the Arts Council at 803-581-2030 or e-mail or contact Clemson Extension at 803-385-6181, ext. 114 or e-mail to register.

6 to 11 p.m.: CONCERT & COOKOUT. Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs will perform from 7 to 11 p.m. at the War Memorial Building. $15 per person; ticket reservations requested. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Co-sponsor WRBK 90.3 FM broadcasts live. The Summit will host a cookout beginning at 6 p.m. featuring steaks, chicken, burgers, sides and a cash bar. Food sold separately.


9 to 11 a.m.: FREE CARRIAGE RIDES along York Street with tour guide Bill Marion. Tour leaves every 15 to 20 minutes from the Chester County Historical Society Museum on McAliley Street (behind Summit). CHC Adventures. Free admission at museum from 9 to 11 a.m.

Noon to 1 p.m.: ACRYLIC ART CLASS with whimsical artist Christy Buchanan. Paint an 11x14 Happy Flower Bouquet. $45 per person, all supplies included. Reservations required. Arts Council Building.

6 to 8 p.m.: FARMERS DINNER with local author & farmer Dori Sanders at the Lowrys Community Center on Old York Road. Chester's Cotton Hills Farm will present a short program. Crossroads Restaurant will cater a dinner of Southern cooking (fried chicken, macaroni, vegetables, dessert, tea). A community art piece will be created & given away. Door Prizes. Cookbooks & produce for sale. Tickets are $15 per person; reservations requested.