LAKE CITY, SC (WMBF) - The South Carolina Tobacco Festival has taken over Lake City for the weekend. It's one of various ways the city is drawing in tourists from around the region.
"No one part of this is the end all, be all and the final answer, but these are all pieces of a much bigger puzzle we're building here," said Greg Moore, president of the Lake City Chamber of Commerce.
The festival offers a variety of entertainment including concerts, food, rides and events through Sunday. It expanded from a two-day to a four-day event four years ago, Moore said.
Moore said 20,000 people attended last year's Tobacco Festival and he's expecting up to 20% more people this year.
Festivals that bring in people from around the region, such as the South Carolina Tobacco Festival and Artfields, help downtown businesses throughout the year.
"A lot of people come back because they'll come through and they've never been before," said Iris Bryant, owner of Bold and Sassy Boutique. "They'll come to one of the festivals and they'll like the town, so they'll come back and bring a friend and make a day of it."
Bold and Sassy Boutique has been in Lake City's downtown for 15 years and Bryant has watched the downtown revitalization happen.
"New businesses have come to town," she said. "We have several lady shops now that are new and that is bringing business in from all over."
A new downtown business is The Inn at the Crossroads, which has seen a 10% increase in occupancy each month since Artfields in April, the general manager said.
The hotel restaurant, Crossroads on Main, has also watched its business grow.
"Within the first week of Artfields, it took off like wildfire," Executive Chef Frank Halasz said. "People were reacting to it. People were starting to really just pile in."
Halasz said the restaurant hasn't done any advertising, so word of mouth and repeat customers are what's filling tables.
"We have people coming from Florence," he said. "They want to come down and have lunch with their friends. The locals have been super supportive. People from Myrtle Beach heading back up this way."
Another avenue of attracting tourists is getting ready to open. Lake City's own 7.5 acre lake should be completely constructed by next week, said Jason Springs, District 1 representative in Florence County Council.
Then, construction will begin on leveling the ground to build walking paths and picnic areas. Springs said the park's expected opening is early spring 2016.