PICKENS COUNTY — After 37 years, an iconic area music festival is coming to a close as The Redneck Performing Arts Association is pulling the plug on “Spittoono.”
Oddly enough, Spittoono was never intended to be the fundraiser for local charities that it’s known for today. In fact, money was raised for a very different reason: beer.
“It’s kind of funny how that all started, you see, back then, you had to pay for beer in cash — they didn’t have the credit systems that we do now,” said Justin Rakey, board member with the RPAA. “There was a local bar that needed money to buy their beer for football season, and they didn’t have enough. So, they said ‘Hey, let’s have a festival.’”
Rakey said the bar not only covered their costs, but there was money left over — so they donated it to charity.
“And voila, a tradition was born,” he said. “Since the founding of the event, around $150,000 has been given to charitable groups that benefit children and animals.”
Over $100,000 of that money was donated in just the past eight years, Rakey said.
So, why close the festival?
“To borrow from Daniel Handler, ‘a series of unfortunate events’ has driven us to where we are today — the end of an icon in Clemson” said Rakey. “Three years ago, Clemson University gave us the boot from their property. That was the first nail in our coffin. Second, the weather has been rough the past few years — either it rains like we’re in the Amazon during monsoon season, or its as hot as the Fourth Plague in Revelations — and just for the record, neither is fun.”
Rakey said the “final nail” was the change in the drinking laws in Clemson.
“Allowing bars to stay open past midnight on Saturday night has hurt the event financially, making it impossible to continue,” he said. “This is a huge event where several thousand-people come out in just three days. We’ve gotten so large that Budweiser sends down executives down to see what we do and how we do it.”
However, with that comes high costs.
“We’re official and legitimate. That means legal fees, permits, insurance, and so on,”Rakey said. “In the past, we’d break even sometime on Saturday and everything past that point went to our charitable groups. Now that students can go downtown and drink on Saturday night past midnight, we’ve lost a major allure.”
Rakey said the festival didn’t even break even last year.
“We can’t compete with that and sometimes it’s just best to quit while we’re ahead,” he said.
The final Spittoono will be held Aug. 24 through Aug. 26 in an open field at 1569 Eighteen Mile Highway in Central and — as always — will feature live music, entertainment, food, drinks and t-shirts as a means to generate funds for upstate charities.
Admission is free.
For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/spittoono.
“We want everyone from all age groups to come out, enjoy the music and help us support some great organizations,” said Rakey. “Students and locals alike have been coming out for years to support what we do and to celebrate the start of the new school year along with the upcoming football season. Every beer, T-shirt, or koozie helps us help others — what better excuse do you need?”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.