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!


Hello Columbia! Most adorable baby baboon is playing at Riverbanks Zoo

“I want to hug her!” my daughter kept yelling. That’s when you know you found cute. C’mon look at these big ears, little pink rump pads and round sparkling eyes!

Yara, the baby baboon is the new Hamadryas star at Riverbanks Zoo, which hasn’t had one for over 25 years.

Riverbanks zoo most adorable animal babies

She is cute as a button!

While mom Imi and dad Makale enjoy a relaxing grooming session, baby Yara busies herself chasing and chewing on a pine cone. It’s so good to see them at peace together, last time Imi had a baby it didn’t turned out well…

Amazing monkey photos

Happy family moments at Riverbanks Zoo

Here, delight yourself with some Yara cuteness…

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden admission is:
• Adults $11.75
• Children (3-12) $9.25 (under 3 get in FREE)
• Military and seniors $10.75
• Combo pass $28.75 (per person) includes zoo admission and unlimited rides

See more Riverbanks Zoo babies pictures.

Bad girls at sea…the amazing story of Mary Read, Anne Bony and Calico Jack

John Calico Jack Rackham was an English pirate who ravaged the Caribbean shores at the end of the Golden Age. His nickname stemmed from the colorful calico clothes he wore. He is famous for being the only known captain with female crew members and for his skull and crossbones Jolly Roger, nowadays most popular piracy symbols.

Brave blood thirsty ferocious women sailors privateers

Ladies of steel, Mary Read and Anne Bonny

Calico Jack met Anne Bonny in the port of Nassau, in Bahamas. Although Anne was married to an informant for the British government, the two quickly heated off and ran away, thus committing adultery and also voiding Jack’s pardon.

One day, Calico Jack captured a Dutch merchant vessel and its crew that counted the incognito Mary Read.

Mary “Mark” Read was an illegitimate child from England, similar to Anne who was an illegitimate child from Ireland.

Her mother would dress her like a boy to obtain financial support from Mary’s paternal grandmother.

As a teenager, Mary ran away and joined the army, where she fell in love with a soldier. They married and opened an inn in Holland. After her husband died Mary decided to dress like a man and venture at sea.

Not knowing she was a woman, Rackham welcomed Mary Read aboard his ship to join his crew. Anne Bonny started to have feelings for Read.

Fierce female pirate in the 18th century

You should not mess with Mary!

Legend has it that Mary revealed her gender to Anne by exposing her breasts.

The two women became fast friends, and according to some sources, lesbian lovers as well.

Rackham, become jealous and threatened to kill Read. He reportedly burst in the cabin once, finding them partially undressed.

Others say that actually Mary fell in love with a male crew member. Her love was so intense that she defended him with her own life by killing another man in a duel.

Captain “Calico Jack” made a career of plundering small vessels close to the Caribbean coastline. This boldness proved to be his undoing. In the fall of 1720 he cruised near Jamaica, capturing many small fishing boats, and terrorizing locals along the northern coastline.

“Come up, you cowards, and fight like men!…”
Jamaican Governor Woodes Rogers (a former pirate himself!) ordered the capture of Rackham’s ship and crew. The drunken sailors retreated to their cabins after the British soldiers boarded the ship. Mary Read, Anne Bonny, and one unknown pirate stayed on deck attempting to fight off the attack.

Pirates of the Caribbean in 17 and 18 centuries

He died like a dog...hanged, tarred and gibbeted

Mary Read was enraged by the drunken cowardice of the crew and fired her pistol into the cabin, killing a shipmate.

After a mighty struggle, the British officers overtook the crew and brought them to shore to be trialed for piracy.

At Calico Jack’s trial, Anne Bonny was asked to testify on his behalf and she told the court: “If he had fought like a man, he need not have been hanged like a dog.”

Rackham was hanged at Gallows-Point in Port Royal on November 18, 1720. His body tarred, hanged in a cage, and gibbeted on display at main entrance to Port Royal, presently known as Rackham’s Cay.

“Mi’lord, we plead our bellies”
Anne Bonny and Mary Read escaped execution by claiming they were both “quick with child”. Mary died of a terrible fever during childbirth. Anne disappeared from all historical records, spurring much speculation regarding her fate. Some believe her well-connected father bailed her out of jail, and she moved to America and had a family. Others say she returned to piracy.

Captain Charles Johnson putted best in his book: “What has become of her since, we cannot tell; only this we know, that she was not executed.”

Ready to plunder the high seas? Go to the SC State Museum downtown Columbia and enjoy the blockbuster Pirates, Privateers and Buccaneers exhibit. It runs till January 2011!

All about Pirates! Jolly Rogers, medicine, crime and punishment (State Museum attractions)

Call them sea thieves, entrepreneurs, mischievous warriors, or wild creatures…For centuries pirates have ruled the high seas, terrorized merchants, ran havoc along the coast and sprung countless myths and legends. Love them or hate them they are here to stay.

This post sheds some light on the pirate lifestyle: flag designs and symbols, how they dealt with injuries and battle wounds and what methods of discipline they used to maintain order aboard their ships. Historic data is from the SC State Museum exhibits.

Battle Flags Henry Avery Christopher Moody Condent

Jolly Rogers of most notorious pirates

Jolly Rogers – The first recorded Jolly Roger belonged to Emanuel Wynn, a French pirate who flew a black ensign “with cross-bones, a death’s head and an hourglass” in 1700.

The skull and the cross-bones signified death. An hour glass implied time was running out for the intended victims if they didn’t immediately surrender. Other flag symbols included spears, swords, skeletons, and bleeding hearts.

Pirates sometimes used a red or “bloody” flag to indicate that no quarter will be given should a ship be captured.

When approaching a merchant ship, pirates would normally fly the black flag suggesting no harm would be done to the crew who readily surrendered. However, when a ship tried to flee or fight, the red flag quickly replaced the black one.

The use of the red flag may have originated with the red ensign the English privateers flew in 1694 during King William’s War. Once the hostilities ended, many of them turned to piracy and so the red flag practice continued.

How medicine was applied for pirates

The carpenter was also the medic

Medicine – Few pirate ships had the luxury of a surgeon.

The ship’s carpenter often handled minor surgeries and amputations.

Keep in mind sterilization, antiseptics and anesthetics were unknown.

Victims swallowed rum or brandy in hopes the alcohol with numb the pain…

The “doctor” had to be able to read and understand Latin as most medicine bottles were labeled in this language. The misuse of drugs was quite spread.

Medicine and medical instruments held high value, although most had questionable uses.

Blackbeard famously demanded that Charleston pay his ransom in medicine not riches! He clearly understood and valued its importance.

Common tools for doctors at sea

Life on board was tough. Dealing with wounds even tougher...

Here are some 18th century reproductions of medical tools that pirates may have used to repair wounds and amputate limbs.

There are capital knives, a double retractor, and a capital sow…in other words high class surgery!

For further reading, checkout the well prepared article Medicine at Sea by Cindy Vallar.

It has freakish stories, witty quotes and a brief summary of the world’s first medicine manual:
“The Surgeons Mate” by John Woodall, first published in 1617.

Crime and Punishment…
Pirate crews were large compared to those on merchant vessels. With many people doing chores, pirates had plenty of idle time and often got into fights. Sometimes they settled their quarrels ashore “dueling it” out.

Marooning – Breaking the pirate code was considered a major infraction that often resulted in marooning as punishment. A marooned pilot was left to his fate on a deserted island with little or no food and water. Remember Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean?

Stock and Pillory – Pillories were set up to hold up petty criminals in marketplaces, crossroads and other public places.

In the pillory goes the little thief

Having fun at the SC State Museum

They were often placed on platforms to increases visibility. The punishment usually lasted for few hours and sometimes folks will throw garbage at the offender.

Keelhauling – This was probably the most cruel and painful methods of punishment.

A rope was passed under the ship, the offender was tied to one end and thrown in the water. Then, he was dragged beneath the ship and up the other side, scraping himself across sharp edged barnacles along the way.

Keelhauling could take place multiple times based on the crime and could easily result in the pirate’s death.

Hanging – This was the worst and final punishment a pirate could receive.

Methods of punishment buccaneers privateers corsairs

A pirate under water at the SC State Museum

The lingo calls it “dancing the hempen jig” or “doing the gallow’s dance”.

Many pirates were hung up in chains or in an iron cage called the gibbet.

Walking the plank – Most infamous punishment was forcing the pirate to “walk the plank”. Yet the practice belongs more in legend than in truth.

One published account does appear in 1822 of a Spanish pirate forcing a victim to walk on a plank over the side of the ship into the sea. The report made big news at the time. Some believe this is where Robert Louis Stevenson got the idea for his Treasure Island novel sixty years later? and the rest is history…

You too can be a pirate for a day at the SC State Museum downtown Columbia. The Pirates, Privateers and Buccaneers exhibit runs through January 2nd. Tickets are $5 adults and $3 for children ages 3-12 in addition to general admission ($7 and $4 respectively).

Ahoy me hearties!

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!

Kids get ready for a fun Country Adventure on a farm!

This Halloween weekend we had a fantastic Pumpkin Patch experience at the

Family fun in the country

Hmmm...roasted marshmallows on a stick!

super friendly Country Adventures farm in Blythewood.

The 22 acres family farm is USDA licensed and very well maintained.

We paid $7 per child and $3 per adult for a tour of all farm animals and petting zoo, a comfortable hayride around the property, small pumpkins and a delicious marshmallow roast.

What kids love to do at the farm

Be a cowboy or a cowgirl. Who can resist riding on a country wagon? Not even Batman!

Columbia educational outdoor activities

Giddy Up Country Wagon!

Take care of the animals. The cute little donkey was an instant hit. Other heart-breakers: Jennie, the fluffy bunny, the pony, the horse, the goats, the turkeys, the sheep and the guinea fowls.

Children enjoy taking care of a cute donkey

Hello Donkey! Where is Shrek?

Mine was mesmerized by all the pumpkins. Each child got a small one to take home.

Pumpkin fall tradition in Blythewood

How about this mom?

The highlight of the day was the hayride on a scenic country road through the forest, around the farm and with a final stop by a beautiful pond, where we were “greeted” by King Goose.

We roasted marshmallows, made yummy s’mores and relaxed at the picnic tables.

Pumpkin Patch King Goose Greeter

Swan Lake wannabe

Holiday hayrides Christmas lights, campfire and roasted marshmallows!

December 1st through January 3rd

Start a new holiday tradition at Country Adventures. Enjoy a hayride with friends and family, visit the farm animals and delight yourself with plush puffs marshmallows, cider, hot cocoa and hot-dogs by the campfire.

Pumpkin Patch Hayride

Hayride fun at Country Adventure

The Farm will be open for scheduled groups only. Minimum 16 on weekends. $6 per person, free for children under 2 (add $4 per person for the optional hot-dog supper).

Country Adventures Carriage Services, Inc.
15 Country Girl Road, Blythewood, SC 29016
Phone: 803-754-4724.

Driving Directions:
From I-20 take exit 70. Take Hwy 321 north towards Winnsboro for about 6 miles, then turn right on Lorick Road. Turn right on High Valley Trail (gravel road). Country Girl Road will be on the right.

From I-77 take exit 22 Killian Road (towards Wal-Mart). When Killian Road ends, turn right onto Hwy 21, then turn right on Lorick Road. Turn right on High Valley Trail (gravel road). Country Girl Road will be on the right.

Columbia fun activities for kids – Arts, nature and fairy tales all for FREE!

In downtown Columbia kids learn to appreciate arts and history and to discover Mother Nature’s little treasures. My 4 years old and I had a great time interpreting sculptures at the Columbia Museum of Art, then “chasing” the waterfalls weave their way into the Finlay Park’s lake and finally “taming the wild things” at the Public Library. All of that for FREE on one weekend afternoon!

Beautiful view of Columbia from the top of Finlay Park

Columbia Museum of Art
The Columbia Museum of Art rewards you with one of Southeast’s most significant collections of European art from the 14th through the 18th centuries. Most notable things to see: Sandro Botticelli (this was his nickname given by his big brother!)– Nativity, Claude Monet – The Seine at Giverny and the amazing Tiffany glass collection.

Columbia Museum of Art photo

Tips to know before you go
1. Free admission on Saturday; Kids 5 and under enter for free anytime. A membership provides you free admission for a full year to 70 other museums in the Southeast. Call (803)-799-2810 for more info.

2. Downtown parking is free on Sunday. Beware during the week traffic is very slow due to construction on Main Street near the museum.

3. There is a family friendly tour on 1st Saturday of every month at 10:30 AM and public docent led tours every Saturday at 1 PM and Sunday at 1:30 PM.

4. You can access anytime anywhere for FREE (except the cost of your minutes) a cell-phone audio tour and hear the experts discuss selected art objects. Dial (803)-234-8969, then the art section number followed by the pound sign. There is a brochure with all the info at the museum desk.

5. Young kids are most attracted by statues, Chinese antiquities, contemporary art objects and the nice water fountain and sculpture in front of the museum.

The Art Museum is closed Mondays, Tuesdays and on major holidays. Hours of operation: Wed, Thu and Sat 10 AM – 5 PM; Fri 10 AM – 9 PM and Sun 1 – 5 PM. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors (60 and over) and military and $2 for students.

Columbia Public Library downtown
Go to the Children’s Room downstairs. It has a naturally lit air-conditioned open space decorated with natural trees and plenty of couches to relax on. Don’t worry about making noise there are only parents, kids and babies around…

Things to know before you go
1. Kids love choosing their own books. Lana made 4 trips picking up “her favorites”. If you want to choose the books, each age is color-coded.

Kid picking up books at Columbia Public Library

2. The library it’s not just about reading. Kids have fun “talking and playing” with the stuff animals (say hello to the Cat in a Hat everyone!), solving puzzles, drawing or decorating. In the end just spending quality time with their loved ones it’s all that matters.

Mom reading with her daughter at the Library

3. Richland County residents get a free library card and can check out 30 items per card (books, videos, CDs, DVDs or magazines). You can return them at any of the 9 RCPL locations.

Kids have fun reading at RCPL downtown

4. If you’re pressed for time the staff can suggest age-appropriate titles. You can even call ahead at (803)-929-3434 and books will be ready for you.
5. Free wireless Internet is available throughout.

Finlay Park
This is a great park in the middle of the city. The main attraction is the man-made waterfalls that stream down into the peaceful lake.

Kids by the Finlay waterfall

Finlay has many shaded picnic areas, 2 playgrounds, a big open grass field and miles of walking and jogging trails around the lake. Beware the park is a very popular spot with the homeless yet they will not bother you.

Family relaxing and taking photos by the waterfall:

Family photo at Finlay waterfalls

Hiking and jogging trail around the lake:

Finlay park walking and jogging trail photo

Main playground area:

If time permits tour for FREE the magnificent State House not too far away from the Library (bordered by Assembly, Senate and Pendleton streets). You’ll be awed by its fascinating history, outstanding architecture, remarkable sculptures, monuments and Revolutionary War paintings.

Enjoy the art, read books and have fun outdoors with your kids in beautiful downtown Columbia!