People crowd the streets of downtown every Thursday night in June and September for the 13th annual Twilight Festival. Sponsored by the Downtown Columbia Associations, the festival offers a chance for downtown restaurants to shine. Although the Twilight Festival does not invite food vendors, it aims to showcase the 70 bars and restaurants downtown.
“Thirteen years ago when we started the festival, we purposefully picked Thursday nights because the retailers were open until 8 p.m. Our role is to help the retailers and restaurants downtown, and we didn’t want to have the festival when everything was closed,” said Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Associations.
On festival nights, many downtown restaurants stay open later than usual to accommodate the crowd. Some restaurants offer outdoor seating while others set up sidewalk stands where festival goers have their choice of bratwursts, lemonade, kettle corn and various other foods.
Tellers Gallery and Bar sets up a grill and a table along the sidewalk in front of the restaurant and sells freshly grilled bratwursts for $2.50 and homemade lemonade for $2.
Deb Rust, one of the owners of Tellers, has worked during the Twilight Festival in both June and September.
“September is slower than June but the weather is much nicer. I think part of the reason for the change in community participation is that people were gone for Labor Day weekend, the football season is beginning, and 9/11 fell on a Thursday this year,” Rust said.
Despite the small change in numbers, the festival was going strong. People came out to listen to music, view the work of local artists, socialize with their friends and neighbors and eat good food.
“We’ve sold quite a bit of bratwursts tonight. Our homemade lemonade is selling, too, but not as quickly as it was during the festival in June. We sold gallons of it in June because it was so hot,” Rust said.
Rust’s favorite part of the Twilight Festival is watching the people.
“Most everyone is happy and enjoying themselves. I’m glad that I have the chance to participate and be outside in this great weather,” Rust said.