Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Aiken Season

It's February and the Aiken season is in full swing. Hunt week festivities have kept the hunt folk busy from morning until night. The Aiken Eventing Series has started, with well-attended events at Jumping Branch, Full Gallop and this weekend's Sporting Days Farm. Some of the country's top event riders have been attending training sessions at Buckleigh Farms Equestrian Center on Route 302 east of town. Buckleigh will host more training sessions on February 21 and 22, as well as a clinic by Olympic champion Bruce Davidson on February 17 and 18.

In addition to all the outdoor activities, there have also been a number of cultural events, including several art shows. Over at the Aiken Center for the Arts on Laurens Street, the annual Sporting Art sale (featuring national artists)benefits the Aiken chapter of the Red Cross (this chapter was started by the Aiken horse community's godmother Mrs. Thomas Hitchcock.) Out at Sporting Days Farm, a sale and exhibition of the works of local artists will also benefit the Red Cross.

In addition, a traveling exhibit of foxhound art came to the Aiken Center for the Arts on February 2. This exhibit and sale features top sporting artists from around the country, and is a fundraiser for the Masters of Foxhounds Association of America.

The foxhounds art exhibit was not quite as spectacular as the foxhounds themselves, however. On February 2 and 3, the Centennial Foxhounds Performance Trials took place at Edgar Cato's Augusta Plantation. Hounds from many hunts, including some from as far away as Minnesota, took part in the trials. The hounds were assessed by mounted judges and scored for their scenting ability, the quality of their cry and their endurance. The winning hound was Aiken Hound's Number One foxhound, Namon, who took top honors in every category.

After the trials, friends of the hunt and of the Hitchcock Woods Foundation gathered for a cocktail party at the Aiken Center for the Arts, where they could view the foxhound art exhibit. Namon Corley, who lays the drag and cares for the Woods (and for whom the winning foxhound was named)demonstrated his skill on the piano and proved himself the life of the party.