The annual South Carolina Festival Of Discovery is taking place in Greenwood, SC from July 6 to 8, 2023. Get all the details about the festival in this post.
For more tips planning your next trip, check out all of our travel posts.
The South Carolina Festival Of Discovery is an annual blues and barbecue festival happening in the namesake of Greenwood County, South Carolina.
The annual event, now in its 22nd year, takes place in the center of Uptown Greenwood, South Carolina from July 6 to 8, 2023.
We went last year and had such a good time. There’s a ton of barbecue to eat and live music all over town. Our favorite part was the People’s Choice, which is a public voted contest. You eat a sample from all the BBQ teams in the competition and vote for your favorite.
The majority of the festival happens on or near Main Street, so keep that in mind for road closures. Main Street, and several side streets, will be closed Thursday, July 6 at 6 pm and will remain closed until Sunday, July 9 at noon.
Keep reading to find out out more about the festival, which is great for the entire family, and get the festival’s full schedule.
The SC Festival Of Discovery is all weekend long, which leaves you time to check out the rest of Greenwood while you’re there.
For help planning that portion of your trip, check out our 24 Hours In Greenwood, South Carolina post.
South Carolina Festival Of Discovery: Everything You Need To Know
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At the South Carolina Festival Of Discovery, you’ll discover (mostly) barbecue and blues music. Plus, the beautiful town of Greenwood.
Where is Greenwood?
Greenwood, South Carolina is in Greenwood County, in western South Carolina, near the Georgia border.
It’s found in the Old 96 District in South Carolina, which consists of Greenwood, Abbeville, Edgefield, Laurens, and McCormick Counties.
Greenwood is also home to the South Carolina Festival Of Flowers, which originally began in 1968. This year, 42 topiaries were featured throughout the town in the month of June. Each year, over 40 topiaries are featured throughout the town in the month of June. Some of the topiaries are still on display during the South Carolina Festival Of Discovery.
What is the main attraction of the South Carolina Festival Of Discovery?
The main attractions are the barbecue and the blues music.
Music is life, but let’s start with the food.
Barbecue will be served from lunch Thursday through Saturday evening. There are countless barbecue vendors at the event, all serving hot and fresh barbecue. You can stop by, peruse their offerings, and enjoy lunch or dinner (or lunch and dinner).
The majority of the food vendors are located in the parking lot on Main Street between Court Avenue and Seaboard Avenue (from the Inn on the Square to the Greenwood Community Theater, if you’re familiar with the area).
Some vendors will be set up in the Kids Zone, at Uptown Market and along on Maxwell Street in that area.
In addition to the barbecue vendors, there will be food trucks and other non-barbecue vendors set up around the festival area. There will be dessert trucks, selling items like doughnuts and sno cones, as well.
Outside food and drink isn’t permitted at the festival.
People’s Choice Competition:
If you’re indecisive, Saturday is for you. That’s when the People’s Choice event is happening. From 10 am to 3 pm, anyone can purchase sample tickets for $1 each and redeem them with the barbecue vendors. (Not all the vendors participate in the contest.)
If you purchase five tickets, you’ll be given a voting ticket and can cast your ballot for your favorite barbecue.
Of course, you can sample all of them, but five samples will be filing. That’s what we did last year. But, actually, my mom and I got five tickets each, then split 10 samples.
If that’s what your plan is, we encourage you to start early. The vendors have a limited number of samples, and once they’re out, they’re out. We saw many sell out last year. And so, if you don’t start early enough or eat fast enough, you might end having to use multiple tickets at the same vendor.
At 5 pm, the People’s Choice winner will be announced. The 2022 South Carolina Festival Of Discovery People’s Choice winner was Cherrywood BBQ (we tried their barbecue during the People’s Choice event, but we voted for two different vendors).
Additional competitors will be judged in a Kansas City Barbecue Style competition as well. The 2022 South Carolina Festival Of Discovery grand champion was Smokin’ Sweetmeats.
If you have a kid who loves Top Chef Juniors, the Kids Que competition is for them. Kids ages 6 to 15 will compete Friday, July 7 from 6 pm to 8 pm.
Using two pounds of ground beef, a pound of bacon, and a charcoal grill, kids will compete to make barbecue that will be judged blindly.
An adult will be with the child at all time and can only assist with difficult tasks, like lighting the grill or making hard cuts. Everything else is done by the kids.
Don’t be confused by the name: Blues Cruise. It’s not an actual cruise on a boat. Rather, it’s you cruising around to different venues in the area to check out live blues music from numerous musical artists, like Shrimp City Slim from Charleston, 61 Ghosts from Maine, and Tiffany Pollack & Co from New Orleans.
Sir Rod & The Blues Doctors isn’t on the schedule this year, but that was our favorite band from last year’s festival.
There will be a Main Stage with music on Thursday from 6 pm to 8:30 pm, Friday from 11 am to 10 pm, and Saturday from 11 am to 10 pm.
There will also be the local stage upstairs in Howard on Main. Music will start at 6 pm (with the last band taking the stage at 8 pm) on Thursday, 4 pm on Friday (with the last band taking the stage at 9 pm), and noon on Saturday (with the last band taking the stage at 9 pm). This is different than last year where the local stage was at Uptown Market.
But wait, there’s more.
A bunch of Uptown Greenwood restaurants and businesses get in on the fun and have live music in their venues (and on the sidewalk outside their venues). You can catch sets at Aromas Uptown, Buffalo Grill, Eggs Up Grill, Flynn’s on Maxwell, Good Times Brewing, Inn on the Square, TW Boons, Montague’s, Polo’s Restaurant, Sled Dawg Brewery, and Southern Soul on Main.
There will also be music at the Greenwood Museum and the aforementioned local stage at Howard’s on Main.
There will be a full designated area on Maxwell Avenue, in the Uptown Market Parking Lot, for amusement rides for kids. There will be a Ferris wheel, loop, swing, fun house, inflatable slide, and more. Plus, some food vendors set up in that area.
The Kids Zone will be open from 5 pm to 10 pm on Friday and 10 am to 10 pm on Saturday. Tickets are $1 each or 25 for $20.
That’s also right near the splash pad, which is free and will be running during the day. And that’s great because it’s hot this time of year. So that water is nice.
Alcohol will be available for sale, if you’re 21 or over.
What’s very cool is that you can buy a wristband for $10 that allows you to take beer and wine (no liquor) outside of the festival area, but within designated areas in downtown Greenwood. So you’ll be able to purchase a wristband and take your drink around to the other venues to check out their live music.
You can purchase a wristband outside of Aroma’s Coffee or in front of Sundance Gallery.
What we learned last year, though, is because of this, there’s an ordinance that won’t allow breweries, like Good Times Brewing, to sell their cans or growlers to go during the festival times. It’s a way to stop people won’t purchase a 64 oz. growler, pound it during the festival, and get intoxicated and rowdy. So, if you’re in the area visiting and want to buy craft beer in Greenwood to bring home, you’ll have to find it at local grocery stores and gas stations instead of purchasing it at the brewery itself.
Hot Dog Eating Contest:
On Saturday, there will be a hot dog eating competition from noon to 1 pm. Only South Carolina residents, who are 18 and older (or under 18 with parental permission) are able to compete. So I can’t participate and neither can Joey Chestnut, but we can watch. If you’ve never seen a hot dog eating contest in real life, it’s more wild than you can even imagine
It costs $5 to enter, which includes a t-shirt and all the hot dogs you can eat in 12 minutes. The winner receives $500.
The 2022 South Carolina Festival Of Discovery hot dog eating contest was Greenwood’s own Bryan Crocker who ate 17 hot dogs in 12 minutes.
South Carolina Festival Of Discovery Schedule
Barbecue vendors will be set up during the entire event.
Thursday, July 6
Music at the Main Stage: 6 pm to 8:30 pm.
Friday, July 7
Kids Que: From 6 pm to 8 pm, kids ages 6 to 15 compete in a judged barbecue contest at Uptown Market. Entry is $50 and includes the 14-inch charcoal grill, which must be used to cook in the competition.
Kids Zone Rides: Open from 5 pm to 10 pm at Uptown Market. Tickets are $1 or $20 for 25.
Music at the Local Stage at Howard’s on Main: 4 pm to midnight.
Music at the Main Stage: 11 am to 10 pm.
Saturday, July 8
Awards Ceremony: All award winners, including People’s Choice, will be announced at the Main Stage at 5 pm.
Kids Zone Rides: Open from 10 am to 10 pm at Uptown Market. Tickets are $1 or $20 for 25.
Hot dog eating competition: From noon to 1 pm, South Carolina residents can compete. Entry is $5 and includes a t-shirt and all the hot dogs you can eat in 12 minutes. The winner’s prize is $500 with prizes for second and third place as well.
Music at the Main Stage: 11 am to 10 pm.
Music at the Uptown Market Local Stage: noon to midnight.
People’s Choice: From 10 am to 3 pm, anyone can purchase a ticket for $1 to sample barbecue. For every five tickets purchased, you get one voting ticket to vote for people’s choice.
Where to stay for the South Carolina Festival Of Discovery?
If you’re looking for places to stay in the Greenwood area during the South Carolina Festival of Discovery, there are a few hotels for you to choose from:
Other Things To Do In Greenwood, SC:
If you’re planning a trip to the area and you’re looking for other things to do when you’re there, be sure to read our Things To Do In Greenwood, South Carolina post to plan the the rest of your trip.
One thing you absolutely should do when you’re in town is visit Lake Greenwood State Park. It’s a great place to walk off all the barbecue you’ll be eating during the festival.
Restaurants In Greenwood, SC:
If you want to eat something other than barbecue, there are a bunch of restaurants in Greenwood that are delicious. We really like Miss Ann’s Fried Chicken (pictured above). It’s a local favorite. So is Cheeseburger House.
Abbeville, SC travel ideas:
If you’re heading to Greenwood, SC for the SC Festival Of Discovery, you’ll want to check out nearby Abbeville as well. It’s such a cute town. And, if you’re here because you like barbecue, be sure to put Abbeville’s Hogs & Hens BBQ Festival on your to do list for October.
We have a great list of Things To Do In Abbeville, SC to help you plan your trip. If you want to eat when you’re there, we have a list of places to eat in Abbeville, SC with all of our favorite restaurants in town.
More South Carolina Festivals:
If you’re looking for more annual festivals to check out in The Palmetto State, there are a few good ones that we’ve been to.
Greenwood also hosts the SC Festival Of Flowers in June, which we went to this year and really enjoyed.
And let me tell you, if you like flowers, you need to put that festival on your calendar. You also want to put the Iris Festival, which is the oldest festival in South Carolina, in Sumter, SC, on your calendar as well. That happens every May. Pete and I went this year and had a good time.
Have you been to the South Carolina Festival Of Discovery? Let us know your favorite parts in the comments.