Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – Even with the fear of climbing coronavirus numbers, it seems as if one place that people felt comfortable visiting over the Fourth of July weekend was on the waters of beautiful Lake Murray. Things kicked off early last week with people enjoying all the lake has to offer in, on, and around it. According to an employee of a business that acts as a launch and a place to gas up and gear up, this year may have been off a little bit, but there were still plenty of people enjoying the lake.
Friday, although not as busy as Saturday or Sunday, still saw plenty of boaters and people enjoying the water. There were also people just sitting on properties of every size and description along the banks just watching others go by. Children and adults were swimming and splashing around in the lake after months of restrictions due to the COVID-19.
Retail stores that sell groceries, prepared foods, drinks, and everything else needed for a day outdoors reported Sunday that employees were busy throughout the weekend. One worker at a prepared fried chicken restaurant in Red Bank said, “The dining room was slow, but the drive-thru line has been wrapped around the building since we opened this morning! Lots of them were buying the family size boxes like we sell on football weekends.” Even with mandatory mask policies put place in Richland County, the City of Columbia, and one that governs covering your face in retail businesses in the Town of Lexington, people still spent plenty of money in local businesses that cater to people getting ready to go have some fun in the region.
Lexington’s fireworks show Friday night was a huge hit! It wasn’t just enjoyed by the people who gathered in designated viewing spots in town, it could be seen for miles and many stayed put viewing the display from wherever they were. You could tune into K-Love radio 88.7 to listen to the show’s synchronized music if you liked.
John Spires, the outdoor editor for The Lexington Ledger, said he was at his small cabin at Jake’s Landing watching the show with friends from the banks of the Lake Murray. “My place faces Lexington and we had a great view and could hear the shells as they launched and then see the burst. Sometimes, we thought we had missed something because we’d hear the boom and it would be a few seconds with nothing. We quickly figured out that those delays meant that the shell was just going higher and the burst would be bigger. We didn’t tune into the radio. We just sat, talked, and enjoyed the night while it was going on.”
Tim Spires, a photographer for The Ledger enjoyed it from his brother’s pontoon boat with several teens. “We could see it from an area close to the dam and the explosions were huge! The girls enjoy it and we could still ride slowly to keep a little breeze going which was nice, even though I wasn’t uncomfortably hot when we stopped.”
On Saturday, boats and people filled the lake again enjoying almost every kind of water sport imaginable. AquaFun Paddle & Ski (www.aquafunpaddle.com), a business located at Jake’s Landing close to the Lake Murray dam, had lots of their paddleboards out as well as other watercrafts. You could see them paddling in, out, and around the cove near the business. Maryanna Cureton, who recently pitched in with friends to rent a personal watercraft (Jet Ski) from AuquaFun for an entire day said, “We had a blast! The lake is the perfect place to have fun. They give you good instruction on how to be safe and then we just took off to a friend’s house where we met everyone else. I couldn’t wait for my turn to come around again. We plan to rent another Jet Ski and do it again before the summer is over!”
Many of Saturday’s boaters stayed for Capital City Lake Murray Country’s 32 Annual Fireworks Display. It started a bit late, but the start time is never set in stone because of the sunset and the technical nature of pulling this off at two locations at once. It’s presented by Lexington Medical Center and sponsored by Nephron Pharmaceuticals, First Community Bank, Palmetto Point, Dominion Energy, US Foods and Palm Beach Tan, and seems to get bigger and better every year.
Organized by Capital City Lake Murray Country, a Regional Tourism District representing Lexington, Richland, Saluda, and Newberry Counties, this event is a legacy to Miriam Atria, CCLMC’s President & CEO. She conceived the concept all those years ago and it’s become a legacy event. Parents who watched the show as children with their parents are now taking their own children to see it. Recently, Atria said, “We began this holiday tradition in 1989. This event has gained regional, statewide and national attention as South Carolina’s largest patriotic event and fireworks show.”
The beautiful thing about this show is it covers so much area so more can enjoy it. It launches from Spence Island near the Lake Murray Dam, and from Dreher Island State Park in Newberry County. It’s synchronized with music on WCOS 97.5 radio. It's seen by more people than could ever be counted because of the amount of people watching from the land in various places. “You can’t just gauge it by how many boats are on the lake,” David Washington, one of the viewers who watched from a friend’s dock out of Chapin said. “It can be seen from every county that touches the lake. We’ve been watching it for years and I think I’ve only been on the water twice to see it.”
Sunday afternoon, a Trump 2020 parade brought thousands to the lake again. A boater that said her name was Brittany was watching the parade around Sandy Beach and said she couldn’t believe how many people were there. Another Lexington Ledger follower named Diane said she was near the back of the parade around 2:40 p.m. and it was just getting started. Although the organizers said they expected about 1,000 boats, most said the parade exceeded that number by far. Most boats were flying American flags and there were Trump 2020 flags everywhere. Many boaters drove from miles away to make their support for President Donald Trump and the job he’s doing in the White House known.
Although Independence Day is now another year away, Lake Murray is still here and will be. After being cooped up inside with just family during the restrictions due to the COVID-19, it seems as if people were begging for more opportunities to get outside and do something.
Jeff Long, the owner of LC Angler's Paddle Sports (lcangler.com) in West Columbia, a store that specializes in kayaks for fishing, said recently that his business has never been better. “In general, people like to be out doing something. Most aren’t happy staying at home all the time. My business exploded right after the outdoor restrictions were lifted and I’ve been trying to keep up ever since!”
Besides Lake Murray, the Midlands has three beautiful rivers, a top ranked zoo, museums for adults, and one especially for children that’s scheduled to reopen soon. There are also literally 1,000s of great places to eat and things to do in the areas that surround the “Jewel of South Carolina”, Lake Murray. To find out about how you can enjoy it all, go to lakemurraycountry.com.