COLUMBIA — The sound of live music drifted down the streets of downtown Columbia on Thursday night, signaling the kickoff of the 19th annual Twilight Festival.
According to festival coordinator Erika Kubsch, the festival had something for everyone. Attractions included the Commerce Bank Kids Camp in Flat Branch Park, 10 to 12 street bands scattered around downtown, carriage rides and a concert series on a closed-off section of Ninth Street. Restaurants and shops remained open, encouraging festival attendees to stay to shop and eat.
Those in attendance experienced the rock ‘n’ roll stylings and guitar prowess of Frank Bang’s Secret Stash on the William Woods stage, which moved to a new location on Ninth Street last year. The band has played in Columbia in the past.
“We like Columbia a lot. We like the town and the people we’re playing for,” Bang said. “Festivals help you if you go back to play clubs because people will have seen you before. You only find out about bands like us from word of mouth, and Columbia’s pretty cool like that.”
Local band The Fried Crawdaddies entertained those at the kids camp. Alan Loshbaugh, the bass player, said they have played Twilight Festival three or four times because they enjoy playing in the city where they live.
“It’s neat to be a part of a community that values the arts this much,” drummer Jimmy Culbertson said. “We’re not a big city, but we still have big-city ways.”
Culbertson’s son, Austin, is also part of a band that played on Tenth Street near The Clip Joint. The Guilty Party band comprises 11- and 12-year-olds and plays mainly classic rock.
Despite being so young and having only been together for about a year and a half, members of The Guilty Party say they are no longer afraid of performing. They have several large shows under their belt, including a performance at the Twilight Festival last year. “Truthfully, we’ve gotten used to it,” band member Ross Menefee said. “But when we first played at COMP (a song writing competition), it was bad. I was sitting in a desk, waiting to go on and shaking.”
The band also writes many of its own songs, including “Into Yourself,” with which it chose to open its set Thursday night.
Several blocks away, Flat Branch Park was transformed into a haven for children, featuring bounce houses, a puppet show, balloon animals and the fire performance troupe Sphyre of Prometheus, which performed at Twilight Festival last year.
“There’s a beauty to it,” member Cliff Lawrence said. “It’s a form of dance, but we also do it for the fun. We’re all pyros.”
When the festival began 19 years ago, its purpose was to promote The District, Kubsch said.
“It started at a time when The District wasn’t hopping like it is now,” Kubsch said. “Now it’s a way to say thanks to the community for supporting us.”
The festival, held every Thursday in June and September, boasts an average attendance of about 9,000 to 12,000 people each night.
“The festival is still growing,” Kubsch said. “People are realizing what a great venue The District is for festivals, and people are realizing how much fun festivals are.”