Greene Street is lined with Family Weekend banners as a welcome to visiting families. (Claire Carter/Carolina News and Reporter)
USC’s upcoming Family Weekend means a boom in business for Columbia.
The University of South Carolina event, formerly known as parents weekend, lets families see how and where students live.
Families can attend historic campus tours and information sessions hosted by academic departments.
But, after hours, families will be looking for restaurants and shops as they explore the surrounding city.
Main Street merchants expect a large crowd and have spent time preparing, said Main Street District President and CEO Matt Kennell.
“We look forward to parents weekend every year,” Kennell said.
Kennell said one of Main Street’s most popular events of the weekend is the Soda City Market. Vendors sell food, crafts and clothing on several blocks in front of the State House.
“I would guess there’d be at least five or six thousand people probably coming downtown Saturday for that market,” Kennell said. “I don’t think there’s any better place to get a feeling of Columbia.”
Kennell said police will help with traffic and pedestrians.
Main Street ambassadors, called “yellow shirts,” will be in the area, helping to give directions to visiting families as well as driving a shuttle.
“We have about half a dozen or so of those folks working every day,” Kennell said. “Their job is to make the visitor experience as good as it can be.”
On the other side of the university, Five Points and the Devine Street area also are expecting a rise in business.
Some restaurants are fully booked with reservations, and clothing stores will need to restock after the weekend, said Devine Street Association Marketing Coordinator Jennifer Suber.
“Businesses, especially small businesses, really count on things like parents weekend and home football games,” Suber said.
Businesses also are making sure they have enough staff for the crowds, Suber said.
Downtown visitors will be able to get a true taste of Columbia’s culture and flavor.
Those looking for a greater variety of activities can check out Experience Columbia, the city’s tourism bureau, for other suggestions, including walks along the city’s three rivers.
Experience Columbia’s social media posts list what others enjoy about the area, said Director of communications Charlene Slaughter.
“We have a great set of ambassadors … that live in the community and kind of talk about some of the things that they like to see,” Slaughter said. “Some of them are foodies, some of them are more outdoorsy-type folks and some of them are artsy, so if that’s something that you’re into, take a look at what they’re doing to get an authentic look.”