Each year, Piccolo does its best to program events that the whole family can enjoy — from the CSO's plein air performance at the Custom House to the raucous Seed & Feed Marching Abominable at the Children's Festival. Most of these events are for the masses looking to do something "Spoleto" without having to fork over any dough. And then there's the Spoleto Festival USA finale, which has a hefty ticket price but lots of cachet.

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Seed & Feed Marching Abominable

What is it? A world famous marching band known for their energetic sound and goofy antics. Why see it? This 31-year-old band from Atlanta combines comedy with the enthusiasm of a marching band. All three shows feature dancers, twirlers, and whimsical costumes to add to the craziness of the music. The band is an all-volunteer cast, so these people are in it solely for the fun of putting on a show. Who should go? Children and families are the best audience, but anyone looking for a burst of sound should wander on over to the Midnight March. buzz: The Seed & Feed's Memorial Day weekend appearance at Piccolo has become a tradition. (Anna Miller)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • FREE • May 27 at 11:30 a.m. in Marion Square • May 28 at noon at the US Custom House • May 28 at midnight at The Market • 724-7305

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Reggae Block Dance

What is it? A great big reggae party that helps kick off Piccolo Spoleto. Why see it? The Reggae Block Dance has been a smashing success since its inception, with plenty of Caribbean and African-influenced drumming, dance, foodstuffs, and live music from The Itals and Rezolushun. With the city teeming with interesting artists and performers and the general excitement level pulsating into the red, the block dance is an inexpensive way for locals and tourists alike to celebrate the beginning of both summer and the festival. Who should go? Those who thrive on exuberant crowds, exotic food, and who aren't afraid to get a little sweaty while dancing. Buzz: It's always a jam good time at the block dance! (Sara Miller)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • FREE • May 27, 7-11 p.m. • U.S. Custom House, Concord and Market streets

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Sunset Serenade

What is it? Maestro David Stahl, with his Charleston Symphony Orchestra and friends, gets Piccolo started with a bang, playing big-band favorites in a traditional opening-day gig on the steps of the Custom House. Why see it? Open-air acoustics aren't the best for symphonic music, but Stahl has seen to it that we'll hear everything just fine this year with his choice of powerful and evocative fare. Claude Debussy's La Mer conjures up an uncanny tone-picture of the ocean that's been known to make some listeners feel a tad seasick. Ottorino Respighi's Pines of Rome projects an ancient aura that matches the Holy City's main vibe. Gustav Holst's The Planets will take you right out of this world. Adding extra oomph will be members of the Piccolo Conservatory Orchestra. This'll be the first of several prime Piccolo events featuring our most excellent hometown band. Who should go? Orchestral fans on a tight budget — it's FREE — and those who revel in festive (and crowded) outdoor events. Buzz: Pray for cool temps and clear skies. Always packed — get there early if you hope to compete for scarce blanket and lawn-chair space. (Lindsay Koob)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • FREE • May 26 at 8 p.m. • U.S. Custom House, Concord and Market streets • 724-7305

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Flashback Charleston Block Party

What is it? An '80s costume block party, featuring the sounds of popular local cover bands MacDaddy and Weird Science. Why see it? It makes sense that after seeing the popularity of the reggae block party increase year after year, Piccolo organizers decided to throw a whole new version into the mix ­— one that could somehow involve Madonna and Michael Jackson songs. Along with the usual block party food and drink fare, there will be trivia games for the true '80s devotee. Plus, it's, like, totally free! Who should go? Anyone who enjoys the sounds, sights, and fashions of the '80s (this means you, guy who's watched every single year of I Love the '80s ... and I Love the '80s Strikes Back). Buzz: Walk like an Egyptian straight to the heart of East Bay Street and don't forget to bust out all the shoulder pads, leg warmers, skinny ties, and Aqua Net you can find. (Sara Miller)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • FREE • June 3, 7 p.m.-midnight. • U.S. Custom House, Concord and Market streets • 724-7305

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Piccolo Finale

What is it? A free-for-all celebration of the end of the 17-day Piccolo Spoleto festival. Why see it? If it's not enough that the finale is set in the sprawling, beautiful Hampton Park, consider the culture awaiting finale revelers: performances by Yeehaw Junction Bluegrass Band and the CSO Pops, with "Beatlemadness," plus lots of vendors and artsy-craftsy activities for all ages. The whole evening is topped off with a plethora of fireworks peppering the sky above the fountain in the center of the park. Who should go? Mom, Dad, Grandma, all the kids, out-of-town visitors in for the festival ... and don't forget the dog (on a leash, please)! Buzz: The Piccolo Finale is like a satisfying sigh after a day full of hard work — a time for festival performers, organizers, and attendees to mingle and relax (and maybe climb a live oak or two). (Sara Miller)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • FREE • June 10, 4-10 p.m. • Hampton Park, 30 Mary Murray Dr. • 724-7305

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Spoleto Finale

What is it? Celebrate the end of this year's Spoleto Festival with picnicking, classical music, and a fireworks display. CSO maestro David Stahl will conduct the Spoleto Festival Orchestra as they perform an all-Tchaikovsky program on the 25th anniversary of his Spoleto debut. Why see it? This event incorporates all of the things that make Charleston — and Spoleto — great. The company of friends, excellent food, the beautiful outdoor environment of the historic and fabled gardens at Middleton Place, the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, and it wouldn't be the South without a blistering fireworks display. Who should go? A locals-in-the-know kind of flavor is evident at this event. Great for all ages, sizes, colors, and creeds, the occasion is sure to make you flush with the feeling of Southern hospitality. Buzz: For many Charlestonians, this is the only event of the Spoleto season that is a must-have ticket. (Elle Lien)


SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $32 • June 11, gates open at 3:30 p.m., music begins at 8:30 p.m. • Middleton Place, 4300 Ashley River Rd. • 579-3100

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Circus Flora

What is it? A St. Louis-based circus company that blends traditional European and modern circus techniques in their production titled Homage. Why see it? Homage is so titled because it celebrates the inception of Circus Flora at Spoleto 20 years ago, with a parallel story of the Baldini family arriving in Charleston and overcoming hardships through brave feats. The productions occur in a traditional one-ring big top where no audience member is more than 42 feet from the ring. Live music, beautiful costumes, and the legendary Flying Wallendas help make for a memorable experience. Who should go? Moms, dads, kids, grandparents. Take advantage of the specially-priced family package — $40 for four tickets plus a concession stand coupon. Buzz: This is their fifth time at Spoleto, so some know what to expect. Still, the company keep things fresh with new stories and additions to their performer line-up — enough to attract new and repeat audiences. (Jennifer Corley)


SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA • $10-$30 • 2 hours • May 25 at 6 p.m., May 26 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., May 27, 28, 29, 30 at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. • Ansonborough Field • 579-3100

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Children's Festival

What is it? A day in Marion Square with a ton of diversions for kids and their families. Why see it? The Seed and Feed Marching Abominables parade through, clowns and storytellers mill about, and there's plenty of activities to entertain the kids. Who should go? Uh, kids, and the people who clothe and feed them. Buzz: The Abominables hit the park about 11:30 a.m. If you get there early enough, you can still make it to the beach for the rest of the afternoon. (Stephanie Barna)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • FREE • May 27, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. • Marion Square, corner King and Calhoun streets • 724-7305

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Piccolo Goes to the Beach

What is it? A family event at the Isle of Palms Rec Center that includes a multimedia show by Sean Driscoll entitled "The Circus King" on Saturday and a performance by Sol Driven Train, a local band that recently put out a great kids' CD. Also on hand will be the juggling Fettucini Brothers and the singing group Almost Recess. Why see it? It's fun, it's at the beach. Why not? Who should go? Another event geared exclusively to Charleston's kid population. Buzz: IOP has rolled out the red carpet in order to be a part of Piccolo Spoleto and has contracted Creative Spark Center for the Arts of Mt. Pleasant to plan the event. (Stephanie Barna)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • FREE • June 10 at 4 p.m.; June 11 at 1 p.m. • Isle of Palms Recreation Center, 24 28th Ave., Isle of Palms • 724-7305

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Petite Performance Pavilion

What is it? For three years now, the Office of Cultural Affairs has erected a big, open-air tent in front of the John C. Calhoun monument in Marion Square, trundled in a low stage, outfitted it with some basic amplification and lighting equipment, and programmed short bits of performance art for an afternoon sampling of Piccolo artists. Why see it? The Petite Performance Pavilion is a grab bag. There's rarely a schedule posted anywhere, and the artists are pulled from across the spectrum of Piccolo, which means it could be anything. We've dropped by and caught Second City performing in the past — and we've also been inflicted with high school choral groups. Part of the fun is not knowing what it's going to be. Who should go? Anyone drifting through the environs of Marion Square or nearby streets between May 28-June 4 around lunchtime. The Pavilion's not exactly a destination, since you don't know what you're going to see, but it's worth checking out if you're in the neighborhood. And it is surrounded by the Outdoor Juried Art Exhibition in Marion Square, which is worth a gander, too. After all, some of the best things happen when you least expect them. Buzz: There's no schedule posted, so who you find performing is up to fate, luck, providence, circumstance, and the alignment of the stars. (Patrick Sharbaugh)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • FREE • May 28-June 4, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. • Marion Square, corner King and Calhoun streets • 724-7305

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Sand Sculpting Competition

What is it? A competition to see who can make the coolest, most elaborate, most creative sculpture out of sand. Why see it? You can either get there early and take part in the battle, or you can simply spread out a blanket and watch the sculptures take shape. Who should go? Everyone but toddlers — for some reason kids who've just learned to walk love playing Godzilla and crushing sand castles underfoot. Buzz: The Lowcountry has lots of serious sand sculptors, so the competition should be fierce. (Stephanie Barna)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • FREE • June 3, 9 a.m.-noon • Isle of Palms Front Beach • 724-7305

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Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival

What is it? A true celebration of Gullah/Geechee heritage with more than 100 sweetgrass basketweavers, gospel singers, historians, and food vendors demonstrating an important aspect of local culture and history. Why see it? A great opportunity to sample local foods, listen to the sounds of the Gullah people, and experience a culture that's quickly becoming endangered by the growth and development of the Southeastern coast. Who should go? A great event to take the whole family to. Buzz: There will be three sweetgrass basket raffles, and you don't want to miss out on owning your very own piece of history. (Stephanie Barna)


PICCOLO SPOLETO • FREE • June 2, 3-8 p.m.; June 3, noon-6 p.m. • Laing Middle School, 2213 Highway 17 North, Mt. Pleasant • 856-9732 • www.sweetgrassfestival.com


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