Willie Nelson and Mike Love, Farm Aid 1996

Tim Dominick
>Willie Nelson and Mike Love of the Beach Boys during the Farm Aid concert at Williams-Brice Stadium on Oct. 12, 1996.

by: Teddy KulmalaWhen Beyoncé and Jay-Z take the stage inside Williams-Brice Stadium in two weeks, they’ll join a distinguished list of other performers and figures who have drawn thousands of people to the venue most often used for USC football games.

Here are some of the other big events that have happened under the lights.

Farm Aid

One of the biggest music events to rock Columbia was Farm Aid in October 1996.

Country music star Willie Nelson started Farm Aid with John Mellencamp in 1985 to raise both awareness about the loss of family farms and funds to keep farming families on their land. South Carolina, whose farmers were reeling from the effects of Hurricane Bertha that fall, was selected to host the 1996 event.

The daylong event was a who’s-who of music, with Tim McGraw, Martina McBride, the Beach Boys and Columbia’s own Hootie and the Blowfish among those taking the stage. The entire ensemble came out onstage to perform with Nelson for the finale.

The event raised more than $700,000 that year.


Pope John Paul II

On a humid September evening in 1987, Pope John Paul II led an interchurch worship service inside a Williams-Brice Stadium packed with cheering, applauding worshipers.

The 35-minute prayer service drew more than 60,000 people from around the country who began arriving at the stadium at noon that day, even though the gates didn’t open until 2 p.m. and the homily didn’t begin until 7:30 p.m. It was part of the pope’s 10-day visit to North America, and was the first and only visit by a pontiff to South Carolina.

Read about the others that have appeared there, President Obama, Paul McCartney, Billy Graham and more here. 

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