It’s a question as old as time: “What the hell do I wear to this party?” And while dress codes have loosened over the years, sometimes that only serves to compound the confusion. This past weekend, we tackled “black tie encouraged,” “costumes strongly encouraged,” and an event where we were sure everyone would be in feathered headdresses and sequins.
The Charleston Library Society and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Remix hosted “A Night in Monte Carlo” last Friday at 164 King St. Men in tuxedos and ladies in little black dresses sauntered up the stairs of the Beaux Arts style building to try their hands at the games of chance and celebrate the summer night. Roulette wheels and blackjack tables shared the same space as leather-bound volumes and ancient oil paintings. We stopped for a glass of wine before cashing in our complimentary fun money for some casino tokens.
The spread from Salthouse Catering featured formal evening social staples such as smoked salmon and fancy cheeses. Everyone was having a good time, mingling and prodding their friends to bet higher on their hand. Many of the patrons were the South of Broad set, more comfortable in black tie than most of us are in sweatpants. These gents did not need to rent their tails. While we didn’t get our photo snapped for the pages of the Charleston Mercury, we did spot the publisher, Charles Waring mixing with the crowd. The other half of the attendees were literary-minded young professionals excited for a chance to put on the ritz and gamble the night away. As we’ve learned, it’s nearly impossible to get the attention of Charleston revelers after they’ve bellied up to the bar a few times; we were pleasantly surprised when the group paused to listen to Anne Cleveland announce that the orchestral performance was to begin. Unfortunately, their attention wasn’t held for long. It wasn’t the performers’ fault — we’re sure they were wonderful (if only we could have heard them) but everyone was more interested in gambling than strings. Quitting on a high note, we left after our big win at the roulette tables and left our chips with friends still waging their bets.
We were glad we didn’t overindulge on Friday because Saturday saw us pedaling on a big bike ride in the name of craft beer. To celebrate the passage of South Carolina’s Pint Law, a large group came together for the inaugural Pint Pedal day. The police-escorted bicycle convoy started at Palmetto Brewery and circled up to the Old Naval Base for a stop at COAST Brewing Company before heading back downtown.
Costumes were encouraged for the journey and ranged from superheroes to fairies to some guy in a tuxedo onesie. With a blare of the officer’s sirens, the group traveled up Meeting Street to Spruill Avenue in search of a cold brew. Residents mowing their lawns or sitting on their porches that morning were surprised to see the 100-plus bikers breeze by and shouted encouraging cheers or ran to the street to wave. The weather was nearly perfect as the group arrived at COAST. Bicycles were strewn about the yard as everyone lined up for a pint or queued up for the Roti Rolls food truck. After refueling, we biked back to Palmetto for another beer. Despite a quick burst of rain, no one seemed to mind the 10-mile ride to consume a brew, and we even heard inquires into when they could do it again.
The short storm didn’t put a damper on the already sweaty group at Pint Pedal, but it did slow down the revelers at Carifest at Brittlebank Park. The numbers seemed a bit down from last year, but we were elated to see there were still quite a few ladies in Carnevalesque costumes dancing despite the soggy grass. The performers on stage urged those taking shelter under the tents to celebrate with songs about Gullah heritage and the Rasta movement. Since we’re not very good at dancing, we were mostly interested in the food selection at the Caribbean festival. Cracked coconut rotis, Gwennies jerk chicken, and Jamaican Me Hungry beans and rice were just a few of the offerings that day. Famished from our bike ride earlier, we could have tried them all. We shared a plate with a friend who told us we really missed out on the parade that morning — her favorite part of the weekend. Next year, we’ll be looking for the crowds in bright feathers and flamboyant fashions rhythmically pulsing down the streets of Charleston. Maybe we’ll even join them.