Columbia’s Lourie Center is adjusting to the COVID era by holding a drive-thru fall festival this year.

The Lourie Center is a nonprofit organization started by a group of Midlands residents who wanted to provide recreational activities for local senior citizens.

In years past, the festival has been an indoor event, hosting vendors who offer services and resources for seniors. Vendors purchase tables to set up at the event and proceeds benefit the Center's activities.

“The pandemic put the in-person festival on hold,” said Stephanie Benjamin, director of programs and marketing for the Lourie Center. “It’s a pretty big deal as far as our fundraiser goes, and with the pandemic we thought, ‘what in the heck are we going to do now?’”

Benjamin said to host an in-person festival for 2020 is “not realistic,” so the team brainstormed an idea where senior residents could still receive information about resources available to them.

The 2020 fall festival will be held Oct. 30 in drive-thru format with a “Rockin’ Halloween” theme in place. Vendors are encouraged to dress up as their favorite rock and roll artists to greet the guests driving through the Lourie Center’s parking lot. Guests are also welcomed to dress up and decorate their vehicles with signage and other rock-and-roll themed elements.

“We are going to use our parking lot to provide vendors a socially distanced spot for a short, guided drive where on either side we’ll have vendors,” Benjamin said. “Our vendors will dress up to add an element of fun.”

As guests drive to the end of the parking lot, they will receive a pre-assembled bag filled with swag items and brochures, rather than going around to collect the items from each individual vendor. Door prizes will be available and gift cards will be added to bags at random.

Though the festival is quite different than previous years, Benjamin expressed her excitement for the event and the importance behind it. “We’re bringing our best attitude and we’re going to be enthusiastic about it,’ she said. “We want to give older adults in the community the opportunity to feel supported.”

Benjamin said that the Lourie Center is still accepting vendors to participate in the event, which will be held from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. The table fee is $99 and all proceeds benefit the Lourie Center’s activities for senior citizens. Those interested in becoming a vendor can contact Stephanie Benjamin at stephanie@louriecentersc.com.

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