The final weekend of the 2009 Spoleto season is here, and the best way to commemorate this year's Spoleto and Piccolo festivals is by partying down at a finale. On Saturday, Piccolo winds up with a free, family-friendly day at Hampton Park that begins at 4 p.m. Carolina Klezmer and the Taiko Drum Group are just two of the performers, who will be playing music from around the world. No coolers of beer or fireworks at this event, so if that's what you're in the mood for, better make plans for Sunday's Spoleto Festival USA finale at Middleton Place Plantation.
At 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, the private plantation grounds out Hwy. 61 open to picknickers who are welcome to bring coolers and blankets. Hundreds of people show up way before dark to enjoy the camaraderie and socializing on Middleton's glorious greensward. Picnic displays tend to get creative with over-the-top themes and ambitious spreads (ice luges are not uncommon). As darkness falls, the crowd moves to the Butterfly Lakes, and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra kicks in to gear for a rousing finish to the festivities. Of course, what kind of finale is complete without fireworks? The display lights up the skies over the Ashley River before the long trudge back to town. Spoleto is currently offering a two-for-one deal on tickets, so if you've never been before now's your chance.
In recent years, another finale tradition has made its way into our hearts and that's the Fringe Finale. Over at Theatre 99, The Have Nots! take the stage for a two-hour-plus pick-up game of improv comedy. This finale is perfect for those who prefer to stay indoors where the beer is cold and the mosquitoes are absent. And it's a good deal too, working out to about 16 cents per minute. Expect the performers to be giddy with exhaustion and for yourself to be laughing two hours straight.
If you're attending one of the outdoor finales, several places around town are offering specialty picnics to-go.
Ted's Butcherblock has a $25 Spoleto Picnic in a Bag which includes Manchego cheese, sliced Genoa salami, crostini, Marcona almonds, grapes, bottle of wine (Australian Sauvignon Blanc or Shiraz), bottle of water (still or sparkling), cups, napkins, plates, and utensils. They'll even throw in a locally-made chocolate caramel bar from SweetTeeth Confections for dessert.
Caviar & Bananas has a $32 picnic in a bag option ($20 without wine). The picnic bags include a chef's selection three-cheese board, sliced salami, housemade hummus, a French baguette, bottled water, and the optional bottle of wine (sparkling/white/red).
You can also customize picnics at either of the above places, or you can head to your favorite wine and cheese shop (O'Hara & Flynn, Avondale Wine & Cheese, etc.) and have them make you up a basket.
And for those attending the Spoleto Festival USA finale, Middleton Place is getting in on the action with a picnic buffet of fried chicken, barbecue pork, cole slaw, green beans, potato salad, macaroni salad, biscuits, pecan pie, and cookies. Plus, they'll have a full bar. This might be the best deal yet. The cost is $15 per person and $8 for ages 3-12. No reservations are required either. Just head over to the pavilion from 4-8 p.m. Eat it there, or take it back to your blanket.