Fun family weekend at Sparkleberry Fair in Columbia: cool rides, yummy food and exotic petting zoo

Sparkleberry Fair is the best spring festival in the Midlands. It is held every year the last weekend in April near Sandhills Village and Carolina Children’s Garden in northeast Columbia. Parking is $5, rides are $3-$5 (unlimited rides stamp is $25, excludes bungee jumping and water balls), food items are $4-6, while the petting zoo and most arts and crafts activities are free.

A bird’s eye view of the Sparkleberry Fair from the ferris wheel. My daughter really loved riding on the big wheel.

Fun rides games food at the carnival

Up in the air at Sparkleberry Fair

Kids can test their climbing skills inside the Monkey Maze. There were also many different theme fun houses to play in.

Fun going through the Monkey Maze

Monkey Maze playstation fun

The bumble bee was a very popular ride with the little kids.

Fun rides for little children in Columbia

Lets make honey little bee

The highlight of the day for young children: the caterpillar roller coaster!

Spring family fun outdoor Village Sandhills

All aboard the caterpillar roller coaster!

My favorite attraction was the farm, filled with classic pettig zoo animals like the bunnies, goats, cows, sheep, pigs, donkey, turkey and chickens and a surprising variety of more exotic animals: alpacas, lama, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, yak, and camel.

Farm animals petting zoo fun

They are so cute!

Pet the baby alpaca! Where else can you see, touch and even ride wild animals?

Exotic farm animals at thespring fair

Nice alpaca, nice...

The Native American exhibit featured live hunting demonstration, bow and arrow shooting lesson, traditional face painting, open fire cooking, a huge tepee, storytelling, singing and arts and crafts souvenirs.

Native American heritage and traditions

Checking out the big tepee

The Sparkleberry Fair has something fun for everyone!


Old St. David’s Parish, Cheraw’s sentinel and South Carolina’s last state Church

Cheraw is known for the annual SC Jazz Festival honoring its native son, music phenom Dizzy Gillespie. “The prettiest town in Dixie” proudly boasts amazing churches, historic houses, theater and businesses from colonial and Civil War times.

1774 Parish the last Anglican Church built in SC

Old St. David's in Cheraw, South Carolina's last state church

Old Saint David’s Church was the last Anglican Parish to be established in South Carolina under King George III, in 1768 (completed in 1774).

It was named for David, patron saint of Wales, quite appropriate given the first major settlement in Old Cheraws was the “Welsh Neck”.

In 1819, the Episcopalians claimed Old St. David Church. In 1826, they changed the rectangular jerkin-head structure to its present day form and added the steeple, vestibule and vestry. The cross on the steeple was added in 1883.

In 1916, the congregation moved to a new church on Market Street.

In the 1970’s the church donated the building to the Chesterfield County Historic Preservation Commission, who restored it to the 1826 period.

The central section appears much like it did in 1774. Mr. Neil Meetze constructed the pulpit of “polished black walnut built together with a clerks desk, staircase, and banister, after the model of the Georgetown pulpit”. At the time, Anglican churches were very plain, with the focus on preaching rather than aesthetics and comfort. There was no heat and no electricity.

Inside Old St David Parish church

Puritan style interior with simplistic pulpit, pews and altar

After the American Revolution, the Anglican Church was disestablished and the Vestry ceased to meet. In 1819, the Episcopal Church, successor to the Church of England in America, reclaimed Old St. David’s church. The first settled clergyman was Rev. Arthur Fowler.

1800s organ in honor of St David Parish warden

Organ honoring Benjamin Rogers, warden at Old St. David's Church

Two Bishops were rectors of Old St. David’s. Rev. Alexander Gregg was rector from 1846 to 1859. He authored A History of the Old Cheraws and also became the first Episcopal Bishop of Texas. The last rector was Rev. Albert Thomas, who designed the new church. He went on to become Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina and author of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

Interesting monuments in the Old St. David’s Church cemetery

In the church’s cemetery rest soldiers who fought in all of America’s major wars. During the Revolution the church was used as a hospital by both armies. Here is a monument for the officers of the British “Highlanders” regiment, commanded by Maj. McArthur. Many of his soldiers became ill with chicken pox and are buried in an unmarked mass grave in front of the church.

Mass grave for unknown British soldiers

Monument honoring The Highlanders Regiment from Lord Cornwallis' Army

Note the grave of Moses Rogers, famous commander of the SS Savannah, who in 1819 took the first steamboat over the Atlantic. Interestingly, the monument was paid for by the Catholics of Texas! People of many faiths are buried in the cemetery, proof once more of the love and respect for the old parish church.

Momument of the SS Savannah steamboat Commander

Capt. Moses Rogers commander of SS Savannah, first steamboat to cross the Atlantic Ocean

The first Confederate Monument was built here, in the Old St. David’s Church Cemetery in 1867

US first Confederate soldiers monuments

1867 Confederate Monument, first one erected in the country

“Amid the changes of time and civil rule, only the old parish church remained to tell its tale in the associations and traditions connected with earlier days.” Rt. Rev. Alexander Gregg, “A History of the Old Cheraws”

Visit Cheraw to enjoy one of the most beloved and old Anglican churches in South Carolina!

New at Riverbanks Zoo, Columbia wild fun thing to do!

I haven’t been to Riverbanks since the “Lights Before Christmas” event. Last Saturday my daughter and I braved the crowds and the heat to see what’s new at the zoo.

Newest exhibit: Kangaroo Walkabout
Although is hard to replace the feisty sea lions (remember Big Boy?) the kangaroos and wallabies held their own on the fun factor. Kids love to get close (really close!) to the strange looking creatures. The are two staff guides that monitor the animals and are happy to answer questions.

Red Necked Wallabies – Wallabies are the smaller cousins of the kangaroos.

Columbia Zoo newest exhibit

Happy to sit next to young wallabies

The red-necked wallaby is the largest of all the wallabies.

Like kangaroos, wallabies get around by hopping and raise young in a pouch in the female’s belly. They spend the dawn and dusk hours eating grasses and other plants, and rest during broad daylight.

Red-Necked Wallabies have been killed for their fur and because they eat same grass as sheep.

Red Kangaroos – Males are called “boomers”, females “flyers” and the young are called “joeys”. Kangaroos can live up to 20 years of age.

Handsome young male Columbia Zoo

Is fun watching the kangaroos only feet away

In the wild, males live lot less than females (5-10 years vs. 10-15 years) due to constant fighting with other males and their mostly solitary life.

An adult male red kangaroo can weigh 200 pounds and grow to be 5 feet tall, truly remarkable considering at birth he is as big as a jelly bean!

Kangaroos are mostly nocturnal. During the day they cope with the heat by licking their wrists.

They can hop over 6 feet tall fences, leap over 25 feet and reach speeds of 30 mph! When threatened, kangaroos stomp the ground with their hind legs and thump with their tales. They can deliver a powerful kick if necessary!

The Gorilla exhibit is still a family favorite. There is renewed interest after the short yet exciting escapade last year and the sad departure of Kimya, the youngest male, this year.

Silverback gorilla survivor Columbia zoo

The one gorilla who did not get away...

2010 Price and Food Updates:

Admission is now $11.75 adults, $9.25 children (under 3 get in FREE), $10.75 military and seniors. There is a new $28.75 (per person) Combo Pass that includes admission and unlimited rides.

Really cute meerkat Riverbanks Zoo

The Meerkat Manor of Columbia!

There are 2 new “Explorer” membership options, $99 individual and $149 family, which provide unlimited rides and attractions on top of the usual benefits.

See all the details here.

You can get a $20 Day Pass for unlimited rides and feedings. The price for each individual attraction has not changed ($5 pony ride, $2 train ride, $2 3D Theater, $1 carousel, and $1 giraffe and lorikeet feeding).

Best place to eat is still the Kenya cafe, which is open year around and offers indoor A/C seating. All grill meals include french fries and cost around $4. Choose from burgers, hot dogs, chicken tenders, chicken and BBQ sandwiches. There are grab-and-go salads, deli sandwiches, yogurt, fruits and more.

Stay wild, be cool at the Riverbanks Zoo!

Get Dizzy in Cheraw! SC Jazz Festival is buzzing fine music, arts, bepop parade, food and more…

“Bebop on down to Chee-raw, South Carolina” October 16 -18 weekend at the lively annual SC Jazz Festival.

Dizzy Gillespie bepop inventor and trumpet genius

Dizzy Gillespie bepop inventor and trumpet genius

Enjoy world class jazz, a bebop parade, jazz crawls, SC Cotton Trail Artisans’ exhibit, gospel music, and many fun free kids art activities.

Single concert tickets are $15 ($25 for both nights) and include Main Stage events.

For more info call (843) 537.8420 ext. 12 or visit

Events Schedule Highlights

Friday, October 16
• “Bepop Parade”, Friday, 4 to 6PM
Join the fun anytime and bebop from Dizzy Park down Kershaw Street to Centennial Park. Bikes, trikes, golf carts and dancing shoes are welcome.

• “Jazz at the Theatre on the Green”, 7:30 to 9:30PM featuring the Noel Friedline Quintet-Charlotte.

Saturday, October 17

Live painting demonstration

Live painting demonstration

SC Cotton Trail Artisans Exhibit, 9AM to 7PM

Featured work by glass artisans, jewelers, painters, photographers, fabric artists, clay artists and more.

Second Street Main Stage Concert

• Featured Concert “A Carolina Tribute To Jazz Legend Dizzy Gillespie”

• The Dave Finucane Quartet, 5 to 6:15PM

• The Robert Gardiner Quintet, 6:45 to 8:15PM

Sunday, October 18
Outdoor Jazz Mass, 3PM at First United Methodist Church
Clergy, choirs and accompanists will lead worship on the church grounds amid soulful jazz tunes.

Just for kids activities on Saturday

Funny Face Painting downtown Cheraw

Funny Face Painting downtown Cheraw

Art on the Green, 12 to 4PM

• “Get Dizzy” marble art
• “Salt Peanuts” musical walk
• “Bean Bag and Bebop”
• Face painting
• “Madonnari” chalk competition
• Get funny with caricature artist Bill Rabon

Juggleboy, 3 to 5PM, downtown Cheraw

Be amazed by “Juggleboy”, the number one juggler in the United States.

While in town stop by the venerable Old St. David’s Church, the last Anglican church to be established in South Carolina. The cemetery features the first ever Confederate Monument and the grave of Moses Rogers, commander of the first steamboat to cross the Atlantic. Admission in free. Get the key from the Visitors Center.

The show must go on downtown Cheraw!

Experience the fragile, beautiful and passionate web of life at Edventure Blooming Butterflies!

With a flap of its wings a butterfly can change the world.

Come to Edventure children museum downtown Columbia to see the incredible life journey of one of the most beloved creature on Earth! The butterfly exhibit is open daily May through October from 9:30AM to 4:30PM (Sundays from 12:30PM). Admission is free for members and and $3 for non-members (on top of the normal museum admission of $6.95 for kids and $8.95 for adults).

Monarch and Tiger Swallowtail, the most popular butterflies in the exhibit

Monarch and Tiger Swallowtail, the most popular butterflies in the exhibit

Tips and Things to Know Before You Go
• Go on sunny days, that’s when butterflies are most active
• Best time to visit is weekdays early morning or late in the afternoon.
• Shutterbugs come alone (or have extra hands to keep an eye on kids). As you all know you need patience, luck and determination to catch that Nat Geo-like wildlife photo.
• Moms and grannies here’s your golden opportunity to get a photo of the year postcard perfect with the little ones. Nothing is cuter than a butterfly sitting on top of your kid nose!
• Get the free butterfly brochure and have your children do a “scavenger hunt” trying to correctly identify the butterflies in the exhibit. Currently they have: Monarch, Tiger and Black Swallowtail, Queen, Julia, Zebra Longwing, Buckeye, and Cabbage White. New species are added every month.
• Save $2 by not reserving your tickets online, you’ll get a spot anytime of the day assuming your group is less than 10 persons. Keep in mind only 30 people at a time are admitted in the exhibit.

Kids love being surrounded by colorful butterflies

Kids love being surrounded by colorful butterflies

Exhibit Rules
• You can’t touch the butterflies as it damages their wings. If they voluntarily land on you that’s OK.
• Food, drinks and strollers are not allowed inside. There’s a coat area across the exhibit entrance where you can park the stroller.
• Each admission has a stamp time (9:30, 10, 10:30 etc) and you’re allowed 30 minutes per admission. You can go in and out during this half an hour.

Frequently asked questions and butterfly trivia

How and what do butterflies eat?
They use their front feet to taste and the proboscis to suck nectar from the flower. The Longwing species can also eat pollen.

Black Beauty Swallowtail using its proboscis to eat nectar

Black Swallowtail beauty using its proboscis to eat nectar

How long do butterflies live once they hatch out?
About 2-3 weeks. The Monarch and the Longwing can live for months.

How can you tell a boy from a girl?
It’s hard as most look the same. For the Monarch the male butterfly has black spots on the lower side of its wings. The Longwing males are thinner than the females and have claspers on the end to grip the female during mating.

What plants are most likely to attract butterflies?
Some of the plants they love to eat from are the butterfly bush, cone flower, lantana, salvia, hydrangea, verbena, black-eyed Susan, sage, hibiscus. As a host plant for laying their eggs butterflies (and especially the Longwing) use the passion vine (locally referred to as “May pops”)

What’s in the purple bowls and what’s their purpose?
Gatorade! The staff at Edventure is very keen on keeping their butterflies in shape! The bowls are drinking stations meant to supplement the natural feeding process. Butterflies can safely land on suck Gatorade though the sponges similar to drinking nectar from the flowers.

What’s in the little back shed?
That’s the “Blue Room” the staff uses to bring and attach new pupa to the window display, and once hatched out from their chrysalis, to release the butterflies into the exhibit.

While visiting Edventure make sure to check out the newest traveling exhibit Let’s Team Up! filled with fun sports games, real locker dress up and interesting facts.

Let the sun shine in at Edventure Children Museum!

Delight your soul with vibrant roses and iris flowers at Edisto and Sumter Swan Lake Gardens

A sea of roses, a swamp of irises. Brilliant colors, sublime aromas and joyfulness in the air. You can’t help but feel happy!

Best things in life are free. And yes the incredible Edisto Memorial Rose Gardens in Orangeburg and Swan Lake and Iris Gardens in Sumter are free to attend.

This Memorial Day weekend bring your family to the annual Sumter Iris Festival. There will be fun things to do for kids, music, food, gorgeous iris flowers for sale and of course the ever popular swans!

Not too far away is the nature’s wonder Congaree National Park, another FREE family attraction you must enjoy at least once a year. The park features the world’s tallest deciduous forest, cathedral canopies, abundant wildlife and miles of hiking, canoeing, and fishing along the mysterious Congaree River.

Walk the 3 miles stroller friendly nature boardwalk around the Visitors center or join the FREE ranger-guided canoe tours every Saturday and Sunday. Call (803)-776-4396 ext. 0 to make reservations (requires 2 weeks advance notice).

Here is a customized map with these 3 amazing attractions.

Easter Bunny Train Ride at SC Railroad Museum

All aboard! Looking for something special to do with kids this coming weekend? Then come Saturday, April 11 from 9:30 AM to 4PM to the SC Railroad Museum in Winnsboro for the second Easter Bunny Eggspress Train day. Fares are $15 first class and $10 for coach ($10 kids 1 – 11 years).

SC Railroad Museum Trivia
The tracks were built in 1883 to transport granite stone to Winnsboro. The tracks and museum are privately owned and the entire train crew is made of volunteers. Our guide was a self-described “Yankee from Brooklyn, NY”, a very nice and knowledgeable guy. Unfortunately you could barely hear him speak over the loud squeaking train wheels.

Hampton designed locomotive

Hampton designed locomotive

Noteworthy artifacts:
• Hampton and Branchville steam locomotive
• Authentic Norfolk dining and bedroom cars
• Pullman passenger car
• US Postal Service train
• Seabord and Nickel Place red cabooses

What to expect on the train ride
1. Wear something comfortable, avoid sandals and flip-flops. It’s dusty and rusty inside the coaches and on the grounds.

2. The ride is 5 miles each way, takes about 1 hour, and you come back on the same line. If you can, sit on the 1st or 3rd coaches on the way in and on the 2nd coach on the way back. This way you’re always facing forward. Riding backwards for half an hour is not that fun, trust me. My advice is to purchase First Class tickets.

The Coach ride experience

The Coach ride experience

3. The coach windows may be difficult to manipulate. Pay close attention on little kids so they don’t get their fingers caught.

4. The scenery it’s not very spectacular. Expect lots of wooded areas and run down buildings along the way. The ride highlights are:
• Old Greenbrier School
• Mini canyon, reminiscent of the famous Winnsboro blue granite stone
• Depot ruins and junk railroad yard
• Stopping to let the volunteers signal the train arrival to ongoing car traffic.

5. The Easter Bunny makes his entrance on the way back home. This is by far the best part of the ride. Kids for once stay seated waiting to shake hands and hug the fluffy character.

Photo with Easter Bunny

Photo with Easter Bunny

6. The kids’ most popular thing to do was to jump up and down the rock pile sitting on the grounds outside.

Rockton Rion and Western R.R. 2009 Season
• Summer Schedule (June 6 -August 29)
Saturdays from 9:30AM to 3:30PM. Train departure at 10AM, 1PM, and 2:30PM.

• Fall Schedule (September 5 and 19, October 3 and 17 (Caboose Days))
Saturdays from 9:30AM to 3:30PM. Train departure at 10AM, 1PM, and 2:30PM

• Special Event Days:
– Easter Bunny Eggspress trains on April 4 and 11. Trains depart at 9:30 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:30 PM and 4:00 PM. Caboose tickets are not available on these days.
– Santa trains on November 28, December 5 and 12.

Onboard Norfolk passenger car

Onboard Norfolk passenger car

Location and Train Rides Prices:
The SC Railroad Museum is located on the corner of SC Hwy 34 and Industrial Park Road, in Winnsboro SC. From I-77, take exit 34, then SC Hwy 34 towards Winnsboro about 5 miles. From I-20, take exit 70, then US 321 towards Winnsboro. Turn left on SC Hwy 34.

Fares Info:
– Coach $10 adult , $7 children
(ages 1 to 11)
– First Class $15 (all ages – includes light refreshment and snack in relaxed atmosphere comfort)
– Caboose $12 (all ages, if available)

The Red Caboose

The Red Caboose