South Carolina is a very culturally conservative state. It is so much that way that liquor served at bars has to be used only from small glasses, rather like those on the buggy the stewardess rolls through the cabin in flight. This law was imposed in order to more tightly regulate and tax liquor sold in bars. That way, it is harder for bars to water down the drinks or put in too much alcohol.
No, Maurice's Original Barbecue Sauce is not hot with spice or fire, but rather with controversy. All controversy aside, let me say that it is a good mustard-based barbecue sauce that offers a hint of sweetness to offset the pungency of mustard. From a culinary standpoint, it is a perfectly good sauce.
As I alluded to in my restaurant tip on Maurice's Barbecue, Maurice Bessinger- the owner of the restaurant chain and barbecue sauce business- is not shy about his beliefs, waving a Confederate flag at his restaurants and putting its emblem on each bottle. Some stores like Wal-Mart and Sam's Club have bowed to pressure by some small but vocal groups who seem to mistakenly believe they have a right never to be offended and took Maurice's Barbecue sauce off their shelves. It can still be found at Piggy Wiggly grocery stores. If anything, the controversy has helped Maurice's business as many locals either go there in defiance of the controversy or simply to get some good barbecue. Outsiders who hear of the controversy go there to see what it's all about and, like me, are genuinely impressed by the taste of the barbecue and the lack of pretence about the place.
Maurice's Barbecue Sauce and other things can be ordered from their website and shipped all over America. International shipment is possible for a price.
South Carolina State Fairgrounds
The state fairgrounds hosts the state fair every October. Between fairs, it sees a variety of trade and public shows, meetings and conventions with a combined exhibition space of 125.000 square feet (38110 square meters). It is at the corner of Assembly Street and Rosewood Drive.
On the fourth Saturday of every warm month, at Hampton and Main Street in front of the art museum the Magnolia Market takes place. A block or so of Hampton is roped off to traffic so local shops can sell their wares under a tent. On that abnormally warm day in late March, Baskin Robbins put up a tent and did a good bit of business.
The Eastern Towhee
Becky has turned me into something of a bird fanatic. I'm always on the lookout for new and interesting birds. Now that I have my digital camera I can take lots of shots without worrying about the price of developing film. I've found that it can be exceptionally difficult to get a photo of a bird where you can see its face.
Someday I hope to have a photo collection of birds that numbers in the hundreds.
Ch-Ching! Can you smell that money? Can you imagine becoming an overnight millionaire. Yeah, yeah, we've all had those dreams and imagined what it would be like to have millions in the bank, but honestly, I've never, ever bought a lottery ticket!
It's not all about greed, though. The South Carolina Education Lottery also helps to raise a ton of money for education in the state. Or in their own words . . . "proceeds of lottery games must be used to support improvements and enhancements for educational purposes and programs as provided by the General Assembly and that the net proceeds must be used to supplement, not supplant, existing resources for educational purposes and programs."
-(from the lottery's official website)
There are all kinds of games offered by the lottery and many people from neighboring states drive here to purchase tickets and a chance to win some cash.
If I ever do buy a ticket and win, I'll be happy to come and visit you anywhere in the world. You can bet that I'd be traveling for a long, long time.
I can't think of a better picture to demonstrate the conservative nature of Columbia. VTer b1bob standing in front of a statue of Strom Thurmond really says it all!
Oh, don't get me wrong, there is a major university here and certainly there are folks who are more liberally bent, but all in all, Columbia is fairly conservative.
Great events year-round
Finlay Park is also a great venue for city events. There is an annual Easter sunrise service here, along with countless festivals, road races and many other events. The weekend that Nat and I were here in March, there was a great family-friendly event going on. Kid's Day brought in the crowds and everybody seemed to be having a great time.
Finlay Park was first dedicated in 1859, although back then it was known as Sidney Park (named after a local city council member). Its lifespan, unfortunately, was rather short as only a few years later, the Civil War broke out and soon the park fell into a state of disrepair. It wasn't until 1990 that the park reopened and in '92 it was renamed after the city's mayor, Kirkman Finlay. There is a statue of Finlay sitting on a bench among the 18 acres of land on the park.
Gather round, y'all
Finlay Park is a great place to find locals in Columbia, particularly on a beautiful weekend day. The day Nat and I were there was Kid's Day, so the place was packed with families enjoying the great weather and the events of the weekend.
However, Finlay Park is always a popular venue for people to hang out and relax, so don't worry if there's no big event planned for the days you're going to be in town.
Lounging on the State House grounds
The central location of the State House grounds makes it a great place for locals to lounge on their lunch breaks during the work week and on the weekends. The grounds are overwhelmingly pleasant, with benches and trees, monuments and flowers all around. This lady was enjoying a pleasant day by reading a book on the lawn on Senate Street side of the State House.