Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., who helped establish the internationally known Spoleto Festival USA in South Carolina nearly four decades ago, took a final bow Friday as he opened his last festival.
It was Riley who helped persuade the late composer Gian Carlo Menotti to establish the performing arts festival in Charleston as a companion to the composer’s Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.
Riley has opened every festival now for 39 years. Friday’s was his last because Riley, who has served as mayor longer than anyone else in Charleston’s 345-year history, retires at the end of the year. This year’s festival continues through June 7.
“There is nothing like the Spoleto Festival USA in the world, and for everyone who participates, when the festival is over, they are changed,” Riley told the hundreds gathered in front of Charleston City Hal