Three of South Carolina’s biggest industries – agriculture, tourism and art – met in an experience designed to get visitors and residents off the main roads and to experience all the senses, especially a slower pace and a sweet taste.
The annual Ag+Art Tour is set for June 21-22. Started in York County in 2012, the weekend tour has been expanded to include Fairfield, Chester and Lancaster counties.
The self-guided tour combines farmers and artisans and is the only one of its kind in the state.
“This is not typical, but it’s a mix that makes sense,” said Duane Parrish, director of the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism.
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Parrish was one of several state officials attending Tuesday’s kickoff event for the Ag+Art tour at the Gateway Conference Center in Richburg. More than 20 vendors, almost equally split between artists and farmers, were on hand to demonstrate their wares and sell a basket or two of freshly picked peaches, strawberries and other produce.
Parrish and other state officials were overwhelmed by what they found.
“Wow” was their most frequent response as they said they didn’t expect to find as many vendors or visitors.
“This is the classic undiscovered event in South Carolina,” Parrish said. One of his department’s specific efforts this year is to find and promote events like this, he said.
The Ag+Art Tour started in York County in 2012, attracting 3,000 visitors. It was expanded to include Lancaster County in 2013, attracting 6,000 visitors.
The expanded tour will combine artists with farmers at 48 sites. While the four counties are working together through the Olde English Tourism Commission, each county plans its own tour.
Ken May, executive director of the S.C. Arts Commission, said the combination of agriculture and art made sense. “Most of our artistic signature expressions are based on agriculture: pottery, textile work, basket making, blacksmithing. It’s like they have always been together.”
May said the two also work together because “people are hungry for authentic experiences.”