Brookland Beach Bash is a day of fun for everyone

Allen Wallace photos.

Saturday’s inaugural Brookland Beach Bash offered a day of fun for everyone, but if its organizers have their way, it will also be the start of something much bigger than a festival.

“What we’re really trying to do here is rebrand our cities as a coastal community,” said Emile DeFelice, founder of Soda City Market and co-organizer of Saturday’s event. “People are going to start moving to Columbia for that very fact.”

DeFelice worked with Michael Mayo, executive director of Palmetto Outdoor Center, to make the Brookland Beach Bash happen. The two share a vision of the Congaree River and its 18 miles of easily accessible shoreline as the centerpiece of the Columbia area.

Saturday was a day-long celebration focused on the river and happening on its banks at the West Columbia Riverwalk. “Surf Soda City” was the theme, and the event was, as organizers put it, a beach party minus the sand.

Palmetto Outdoor Center offered free tubing and kayaking, and swimmers joined in the fun in the water. On shore, there were games, inflatables, arts and crafts, food vendors and much more. Prettier Than Matt, Boo Hag and Kings for a Day provided live music, and after sunset came a free screening of The Sandlot.

The festival is riverside but also river-educational,” DeFelice said. Naturalists were on hand with a tent set up with examples of the river area’s animal and plant life, and guides from Cayce’s 12,000 Year History Park offered tours.

Mayo said his experience with Palmetto Outdoor has shown him that the river is already a major attraction, but he and Felice agree it has vast untapped potential.

“Customers will drive here from Florida just to go down this river. We’re trying to get them to move here,” Mayo said. “It’s events like this that will drive them to stick around.”

DeFelice agreed, adding “Ultimately, this is going to be the major attraction, both sides of the river, for the entire Midlands area.”

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