In case you haven’t heard, the city of Aiken was founded in 1835, so this year, it is turning 175, quite a respectable age. To commemorate the occasion, the city is having a yearlong party called “Celebrate Aiken!” The festivities began on January 9 with a kick-off party called “Sights, Sounds and Tastes of 1835,” an event designed to educate people about the early history of the city. The party took over the downtown area around the Alley, and included such nineteenth century attractions as a flea circus, clogging (a popular folk dance style of the period) and a washboard band. There were also numerous historical interpreters dressed in 1835-era clothing who showed what it was like to live and work in Aiken 175 years ago.
The first quarter of the year is dedicated to “Horses, Health and History,” and includes some specifically equestrian events. The first was the dedication of a historic water trough at Banksia, the grand Winter Colony home that now houses the Aiken County Historical Museum. The cement trough, which had been languishing unused behind the Aiken County courthouse, was moved to the bottom of South Boundary Avenue, near the entrance to the Hitchcock Woods. Its original location was at the corner of Richland Avenue and Laurens Street, where it was a public water supply for people who rode or drove their horses into the city.
County workers took about two weeks to move the trough, refurbish it and install it in its new location. It now provides fresh, potable water for horses that have come from an outing in the woods. The county also installed a drinking fountain for people, and there are plans to fit the trough with a heater so that the water doesn’t freeze in the winter.
On Saturday morning, January 23, the water trough was officially dedicated to the memory of Summer Squall, the great racehorse owned by Dogwood Stable, who died in 2009. Over 100 people came to the dedication, which took place after a meeting of the Aiken Hounds and before a hunt breakfast at Banksia. Numerous people arrived dressed in period costume, including Aiken’s mayor, Fred Cavanaugh. The Henrys, a father and son bluegrass duo, provided musical entertainment.
Other Celebrate Aiken! festivities on tap for the first quarter of the year include a tea party at the Green Boundary Club on February 18. This party, which costs $10 and will have two seatings, encourages “period hats and gloves,” and is already sold out. On February 27, there will be a walking tour of downtown Aiken that starts at Aiken Prep. Then, on March 7, there will be a program at Rye Patch called Aiken’s Horse Heroes. This event will feature speakers and presentations about a selection of the racehorses that are members of Aiken’s Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.
For more information about Celebrate Aiken! go to the website: www.celebrateaiken.com