Lake City's glory days were long defined in terms of agriculture. From cotton to tobacco to green beans, crop markets were the No. 1 form of commerce in this bustling farming hub. While the small Pee Dee town continues to honor its agrarian roots, it has found new, vibrant expression as a cultivator of art. Each April, artists and art lovers from across the Southeast converge upon Lake City for the festival called Artfields, one of the largest art celebrations in the region.
View and Vote
With competitions awarding more than $100,000 in prizes, Artfields has the potential to significantly impact the lives of artists. Winners of the art competitions are selected by public vote as well as a panel of acclaimed judges. The top prize is $50,000 - a whopper of an award announced at the conclusion of the exciting nine-day event.
More than 400 juried art works from artists living in 12 Southeastern states - Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia - are displayed throughout the downtown area, transforming historical buildings and businesses into galleries. Civic pride is strong in this small Southern town. As you walk from venue to venue, you're likely to find the enthusiasm is contagious.
Celebrate and participate
But viewing installations is just part of the Artfields experience. The public is invited to celebrate the festival first hand through workshops, concerts, wine tastings, tours, educational walks, demonstrations and more.
While most events take place within the downtown Artfields district, treat yourself to events happening at nearby Moore Farms Botanical Garden. This 50-acre wonderland, filled with more than 5,000 plant species, formal gardens and more, is a pet project of Lake City native Darla Moore, a nationally prominent financier and benefactor.
In keeping with the educational mission of the festival, students in grades 5K through 12 may participate in Artfields Jr., a series of art instruction, performances, workshops and other activities. Art walks, educational tours and seminars for the "young at art" are presented throughout Artfields, with some events offered year-round to serve the area's schoolchildren.
There also is a competition component of Artfields Jr., with South Carolina students in grades 1 through 12 invited to submit each year. Like the parent festival, works for the contest are selected by an expert panel of judges.
Where to stay
If you're planning to stay in the area during Artfields, it's advisable to reserve a room early. While nearby Florence offers plenty of hotel options, there are a handful of accommodations in Lake City you might consider. Two of the most popular are Olive's Bed & Breakfast, a 1919 farmhouse offering three cozy rooms with private baths, and The Inn at the Crossroads, a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Lake City with an on-site fitness center, restaurant and bar.
Where to dine
Lake City might be small, but there's no shortage when it comes to good eating. While you'll find several of your favorite chain eateries around town, there are some notable locally owned operations worth checking out, including:
Lake City Bistro, located inside The Inn at the Crossroads: Small bistro offering amazing food and refreshing cocktails.
Baker's Sweets Bistro and Bakery: Scratch-made bistro salads, soups, sandwiches and baked goods.
Shuler's BBQ: Quintessential Pee Dee whole-hog barbecue house with a buffet.
Find more information about this year's festival here.