Hanging a banner for the festival outside Bang Back Pinball Lounge (Photo by Eva Flowe/Carolina News and Reporter)

Organizers are expecting another blowout crowd of 45,000 at St. Pat’s in Five Points this Saturday on what’s expected to be a beautiful spring day.

For some businesses, the day means a big boom in money, while others figure things will be less messy if they just close their doors for the day.

Roads around Five Points will start to close at 6 p.m. Friday as volunteers finalize preparations for the 42nd festival, which includes long-distance races, a parade, merchandise, food and drinks and live music.

The festival was created by local business owners to boost Five Points businesses around St. Patrick’s Day, when many Columbia residents left town for a parade and party in Savannah, Georgia. 

Steve Gibson, one of the festival’s founders said the event has continued to grow over the decades.

“Until St. Patrick’s Day came along, most every festival there was in town had either beach music or country music,” Gibson said. And whenever we started doing St. Patrick’s Day, we ended up using the local folks, and we used a lot of original music, which was unheard of.”

The 2024 headliners are Lawrence, The War and Treaty, Futurebirds, Sister Hazel and Conner Smith. 

The festival had a $12.6 million impact on Columbia in 2023, according to Meredith Covert, assistant director of the Five Points Association. 

“And that continues to go up year after year,” Covert said. “The only thing that has a bigger economic impact is Carolina football games.”

Volunteers begin to set up stages and booths at 2 a.m. the day of the festival in preparation for a 10k run at 7:30 a.m., 5k run at 7:45 a.m., and a family fun run that starts after the 5k. The parade starts at 10 a.m.

In the days before the traditional Saturday fun, the Five Points Association focuses on distributing packets to volunteers and runners, making sure bands are squared away with accommodations, last-minute social media posts and newsletters. 

Merchandise for the event is being provided by A Little Happy, a boutique in Five Points. The owner, Ashley Lindler, is also the secretary of the Five Points Association. Merch will be sold at a booth by the largest Five Points fountain, dyed green for the occasion

The big crowd means more money for some businesses.

“It’s probably those people who are here from out of town, come back to the Gourmet Shop, have some lunch, and then end up walking across the street to shop here on Sunday,” Lindler said. 

Some retail businesses close during the festival, some citing intoxicated festival attendees more interested in finding a bathroom than shopping. 

Kelly Tabor previously opened his shoe store, Good for the Sole,  but is keeping it closed during this year’s festival after he says a woman tried to urinate on the floor because he didn’t have a public bathroom. 

“One day out of the year, I don’t mind being closed,” Tabor said. “That’s my way of giving back to this fabulous community.”

Some other businesses prepare by getting temporary liquor licenses, such as Vietnamese restaurant Pho Viet, as well as the Harp and the Hype pop-up bar that will run out of 711 Saluda Ave. To combat the bathroom issue, Harp and the Hype operators knocked down a wall in the building to create space for organized lines.  

New this year is a mocktail lounge, called “The Saint,” for festival goers who prefer not to drink. There are also new satellite stages in New Brooklyn Tavern, Breakers Live, and Jake’s on Devine Street. The satellite stages will play local and regional bands. 

There will be free satellite parking at the South Carolina Fairgrounds, with a free shuttle running every 30 minutes to the corner of Blossom and Laurens streets. University of South Carolina police and members of student government also have collaborated to get students an Uber discount for St. Patrick’s Day weekend. 

General admission tickets are $30 until midnight Friday. On the day of the festival, general admission is $35. VIP options are available with climate-controlled bathrooms, drink tokens and other amenities for $125 to $200.

Security for the event is provided by the Columbia Police Department as well as private security. Pets are not allowed, and any bags brought through entry gates must be clear.

St. Patrick’s Day decor at Sunrise Artisan Bath and Body (Photo by Eva Flowe/Carolina News and Reporter)

Each year, the Five Points Association dyes the village’s central fountain green for the festival. (Photo by Eva Flowe/Carolina News and Reporter)

The design featured on the festival’s 2024 merchandise (Photo illustration courtesy of Ashley Lindler/Carolina News and Reporter)

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