As the city of Greenville continues to grow and change, so does its thriving community. This year, Greenville celebrated special events, like August’s solar eclipse, and important anniversaries, like the 85th year of Bon Secours St. Francis. Among these significant milestones, the individuals and organizations that work toward bettering our community are of the utmost importance. Here are some of this year’s most notable community events, improvements, milestones, and changes.
The Greenville Swamp Rabbits find their place in the community
When the Greenville Road Warriors switched their name to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in August 2015, a lot more than just the mascot changed. By changing their name, they entirely reinvented their image and became a household name in the Greenville community. In rebranding the team, attendance for the games grew, corporate relationships blossomed, and ultimately publicity went through the roof. The team gained national attention from Sports Illustrated and ESPN, which is uncommon for a double-A hockey team. Swamp Rabbits games became an activity for all ages, regardless of one’s interest in or knowledge of hockey.
But the Swamp Rabbits organization does much more for the community than just offer a source of entertainment. They hold a variety of after-school programs to promote health and fitness, anti-bullying, and reading, and this year the team participated in about 200 mascot and player appearances at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Carolinas, the Frazee Center, and other organizations. The team also holds promotional games throughout the season to support local nonprofits and charitable causes. Through their rebranding and marketing strategy, the Swamp Rabbits became more than just a sports team — they’re now a valued community asset.
Mural at Berea Station showcases community’s history
The mural at Berea Station was in the works for several years before its completion this spring. The mural, entitled “Berea, A Look Back,” served as a canvas to remember the old ways of Berea, while simultaneously celebrating the new. The mural was a collaboration among Berea Station Events Inc., artist Adam Schrimmer of Blank Canvas Mural Co., and Berea High School students.
The students conducted interviews with longtime residents of Berea to capture the community’s oral history. From those stories, they helped conceptualize a visual representation of Berea, which Schrimmer then turned into a cohesive design. He painted the mural with continued help from the Berea High School students. By including the students in the process, the mural brought together both the past and future of Berea, and it also showcased the community’s talents and people.
A rare solar eclipse passes through the Upstate
A total solar eclipse brought Greenville into complete darkness for about two minutes on Aug. 21. Witnessing a phenomenon like this is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and this was evident through the numerous tourists who arrived in town for the big moment and the events planned in celebration.
The Upstate was a prime destination for the eclipse, because Greenville was in the path of totality. Approximately $12.3 million in revenue was generated for the city over the long weekend, while a study by the state Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism reported that the eclipse had a $269 million economic impact in South Carolina.
Greenville also gained a lot of attention in the national spotlight and from visitors, and VistGreenvilleSC President Chris Stone deemed this the most important aspect of the eclipse. “They experienced two wows, the eclipse and Greenville, S.C.,” he said. “There’s no substitute for making friends. Exposure is such a key part. People were able to touch, feel, and experience Greenville.” Greenville will not see another total solar eclipse until 2078, and those who were in the Upstate on Aug. 21 will have a memory of the city they won’t soon forget.
Bon Secours St. Francis celebrates 85 years
Almost everything about Greenville has changed since St. Francis opened its doors in 1932, but the health system’s dedication to helping those in the surrounding community has not. In 1921, the Salvation Army agreed to assist Greenville’s textile executives in building and equipping a hospital to serve cotton mill village residents. When the Great Depression hit, the Sisters of St. Francis were asked to come to Greenville to run the hospital. While the Sisters were initially met with some uncertainty, they soon gained trust in the community.
St. Francis was the first hospital in Greenville to have an ambulance and the first hospital in the Upstate with digital mammography. St. Francis is focused on more than just physical health, but rather a holistic health that addresses housing, hunger, education, and workforce development, and they tackle these issues by partnering with other organizations around the Upstate. “We look at what the great needs in the community are by doing community health needs assessments. Our ministry is done in collaboration with the community,” said Alex Garvey, senior vice president of mission for Bon Secours St. Francis Health System. “The greatest ministry is when a community’s greatest desire intersects with the greatest need.”
Roper Mountain pulls the plug on Holiday Lights
When the lights go out at Roper Mountain Science Center after this holiday season, it will be for the final time. After 26 years, organizers with the Rotary Club of Greenville and Roper Mountain Science Center have decided to discontinue the Holiday Lights program due to a steady decline in attendance. When Holiday Lights started over two decades ago, it was one of the only Christmas shows in the Upstate. But that’s no longer the case. “Now there are displays popping up every year. Our annual attendance has declined by more than 30 percent in the past five years,” said Michael Weeks, director of Roper Mountain Science Center. Both the Rotary Club and the science center felt that this was the year to end Holiday Lights on a positive note in order to preserve its legacy.
The program initially started with only 12 light displays and has now grown to more than 70, the most iconic being the 97-foot Buck Mickel star, which stands at the top of the mountain with more than 2,500 lights. Over the years, Holiday Lights has raised more than $2.5 million for science education and community service, in addition to providing entertainment to families. Once the current season is over, Roper Mountain will auction off the light displays. The event’s last night will be on Dec. 30, 2017.