New safety precautions in place for Spoleto Festival

Updated: Apr. 13, 2021 at 3:16 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Spoleto Festival USA organizers say they have been working over the last year to plan a safe event.

Last year, the major performing arts festival was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 17-day event is from May 28 to June 13. It’s an internationally recognized event and is one of the largest events to return to Charleston since the pandemic began.

Spoleto Festival Public Relations Manager Jenny Ouellette says they are limiting capacity to 25 percent and hosting more outdoor events as a safety precaution. Tickets went on sale Tuesday morning and are expected to sell out fast.

Instead of the 10 venues typically used for the event, there will be four.

There will be an outdoor stage at River’s Green on the College of Charleston campus and there will be another at the Charleston Visitor Center’s bus shed. The College of Charleston Cistern Yard is another venue in addition to Dock Street Theater.

“We’ve been working with MUSC’s back to business program and they’ve been helping us review our safety protocols and implement some of them as well,” Ouellette said.

There will be mobile COVID-19 testing for artists and staff at the events to be tested regularly. Typically, the festival has about 150 in-person performances, this year there will be 75 in-person along with some virtual performances as well.

“In a typical year we see people from 16 countries, 49 states and this year we’re not really sure yet,” Ouellette said. “Typically, there’s about 50 percent local audience and 50 percent people from away. We are expecting to see a lot of people come from the southeast, a lot of the drive market, but certainly people if they’re vaccinated they’re ready to get on a plane and come, we’ll see.”

Normally the festival draws in up to 70,000 people, but with reduced capacity it will be less than 20,000.

Attendees will be required to wear masks, social distance and limit interactions with audience members outside their safe seating pods.

You can purchase tickets by calling (843) 579-3100 or online here.

The Piccolo Spoleto Festival is a more localized festival that is organized by the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs. It coincides with Spoleto Festival USA.

Director of the Office of Cultural Affairs Scott Watson says he’s excited for the return.

“It’s a very challenging undertaking to make sure we do everything safely, having the flexibility to make adjustments as we go forward, but we’re just so thrilled to be able to see the cultural vitality of Charleston coinciding with the return of spring weather,” Watson said. “We know it’s going to be a great time for everyone.”

This year all Piccolo Spoleto events will be free and in parks or public spaces from May 28 to June 13 as well.

“It needs to be that you’re coming out for limited capacity events that are on a shorter duration, largely outdoors because that’s what science is recommending to us,” Watson said.

They’re also planning to bring performances into communities and neighborhoods in the city.

“I salute the flexibility of the artists and medical professionals, we’re getting to know each other so well and come up with really good protocols,” Watson said.

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