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We'd been watching the radar all day, and things weren't looking good, with a 70 percent chance of rain looming over Sunday's Spoleto Finale at Middleton Place. But with tickets purchased and picnics packed, we decided to load up the cars and head out anyway.
Arriving under dark skies and in drizzling rain, we found many groups wisely setting up pavilion tents. Why hadn't we thought to bring ours? A call to a friend who hadn't yet left West Ashley solved that problem. And were we ever glad Harriett was kind enough to dig around for our spare key and drag that tent to her car, because the rain started coming down at a steady pace.
We watched some members of the already thinner-than-usual crowd give in and head out. Yet for the most part, everyone was making the most of the soggy conditions, roaming around barefoot or in rain boots, playing lawn games, adding a little extra liquor to their cocktails and watching the skies for signs of clearing. A friend even spotted folks playing slip-and-slide on the hill leading down to the Butterfly Lakes, although I'm sure staff put a stop to that pretty quickly.
And it turned out that this was the perfect year for the new Beer Garden to debut. Set up off to the side of the grand lawn, it offered picnic tables for enjoying Palmetto Brewing beer and Middleton Place fare as well as a small stage that played host to The Local Honeys, The Royal Tinfoil, and Valerie June throughout the afternoon. The tunes not only had the Beer Garden itself hopping but also floated out across the lawn, keeping the whole vibe festive.
Slated to begin at 8:30, headliners Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole took the stage 20 minutes early—a great move on Spoleto's part to keep the damp crowds happy. The rain had stopped, so plenty of people headed to the front to groove to the funky zydeco tunes in the labeled "Dancing Area". A conga line broke out, girls hoola-hooped, and kids entertained themselves by tossing glow necklaces in the air. The band's set concluded with a grand fireworks display that Watson described as a "bunch of fairies taking off" when he and Bijou Creole returned for one last song.
Lesson learned for future finales: if storms threaten, pack a tent, a tarp (to fend off blowing rain), a raincoat, and an umbrella, and look forward to cozying up with friends, dancing in the rain, and having just as much fun (or more even, according to my boyfriend), than you would have had on the usual sunny—but blistering hot—day.