Trae Judy, left, and Dave Britt, right, pose in Columbia’s Five Points while walking off the perimeter of the St. Patrick’s Day Festival site to assess how much fencing they need. Judy and Britt work as a team to help oversee festival planning, marketing and band and food truck bookings. (Photos by Grace Brown)
The St. Patrick’s Day Festival is returning to Columbia’s Five Points in March with a lineup of artists and bands that represent a multitude of music genres.
Dave Britt and Trae Judy are the men behind the curtain who work to make these music performances happen for the one-day festival that’s now in its 41st year.
Britt and Judy booked all 20 of this year’s musical performers, plus Columbia local, MC FatRat Da Czar, for the expected crowd of more than 30,000.
“We both kind of cross over what we do,” Britt said. “We’re very much a team.”
Britt is the festival chair, while Judy is the booking and logistics coordinator. Together they handle all the festival’s moving parts to make sure it comes together on time.
Their work deals with everything from overseeing marketing, fencing for the day of, setting up stages and bringing in musical performers.
Booking the bands takes lots of thought and advanced preparation.
Britt and Judy first start by seeing what bands and artists are available and reach out to their respective agents. They work these performers into a budget that’s set each year by the Five Points Association, which hosts the festival.
So who do they look for?
“There is a fine line between bringing some folks back to play … and, you know, making sure we have a fresh lineup each year,” Judy said.
Then Britt and Judy have to take a deep dive into the metrics of the music. They’re looking for bands on a local, regional and national scale for the four stages that will line the streets of the village.
Choosing bands is a numbers game. They research Instagram engagement numbers, TikTok followings and Spotify listeners.
That makes it easier to predict how much “buzz” will be generated around these performers once they’re announced to the public.
“We can stand behind the fact that these bands are all really good bands,” Judy said. “And if you come to see the live music and that’s what you’re down there for, you’re going to appreciate what you’re getting to see.”
Coming back in March for another year are local bands such as Villanova, who are already a large part of the music scene Columbia has to offer.
“I think they did a really great job, especially picking from the local acts,” said Brandon Jolley, WUSC Music Director. “Rex Darling, Opus & the Frequencies, Stagbriar are all Columbia local hallmarks of the music scene.”
Of the four national headliners, one, Moon Taxi, will be making its comeback to St. Pat’s after playing years ago.
“We get to have ’em back, many years later, to kind of a whole new audience …,” Judy said.
Britt and Judy can’t make decisions without considering the diverse demographics of the crowd.
There’s a mix of 2,000 different zip codes, with 35% of the attendees traveling from outside the city, and more than 30 countries represented, McDonald said.
Each year there’s a “wishlist” of bands that Britt and Judy want to bring in, but some bands are not realistic.
They have to find performers without a conflicting touring schedule, are somewhat close to Columbia, are not on a hiatus and are not recording an album.
The logistics that go into selecting each band can seem daunting.
“It’s very much a balancing act, and every year the bands get more expensive,” Britt said. “So this gets more challenging.”
Ticket sales and corporate sponsorships fund the event, said Heather McDonald, the executive director of the Five Points Association, in an email.
Tickets are $25 before and $30 at the gate.
About $1 million has been donated to Midlands charities since the creation of the festival.
A growing number of attendees walk the streets each year for St. Pat’s, listening to the live music Britt and Judy have selected.
If everything goes according to plan, Britt and Judy are looking to have the headlining acts spaced out. Each act will start playing 20 minutes after the band before them has begun, letting attendees catch more than one headliner if they so choose.
“If you like rock and roll, or you like bluegrass, or you like country, or you like whatever genre you like, we’re gonna have something for you,” Judy said. “And you’re gonna like it or it’s gonna be good.”
One of the many “St. Pat’s in Five Points” banners that hangs on a light post in the village.
Hamp Barnhill, Cameron Smith, Trae Judy and Dave Britt, from left to right, work on site preparations, including where the gates will be.
Dave Britt, left, and Hamp Barnhill, right, work through last-minute set-up decisions for St. Pat’s in Five Points.