The Etherredge Center at USC Aiken has hosted a variety of events, but the one scheduled for next Saturday, June 29, isn’t your average concert or play.

Starting with the pre-judging at 10 a.m., the facility will be host to the National Physique Committee’s South Carolina state championship for bodybuilding and physique competitors.

One of the participants, local Shawn Jackson, said the organization sought to come to Aiken because of the community’s growth, both overall and in the fitness world.

“The goal is to bring in more people, and Aiken is growing,” he said. “We’ve got more gyms... He said there’s a big demand for it, and this is the chairman of the NPC.”

As a graduate of South Aiken High School, Jackson and his wife Jennifer – a Blackville native – said that it was good to see physical fitness become such a big part of life in the area. They cited obesity as a big problem, particularly in the South.

“It’s means a lot because it’s been missing for so long,” Shawn said. “And a lot of the gyms ... they don’t promote bodybuilding. ... They frown on it now.”

Jennifer said she felt there were a couple reasons why gyms, and society in general, have a negative perception of bodybuilding.

“I think because the only thing the media’s ever shown is the bad ones, the ones that have the attitude, the ones that did the drugs to get where they were getting,” she said. “You never see the good side of it, the good people.”

According to the Jacksons, their organization doesn’t test for performance-enhancing drugs. Shawn said that knowing he might be competing against someone who has used steroids or other chemicals to advance his physique just adds to his determination.

“That’s just a chance that you take, you’ll be going against someone you know might be doing something,” Shawn said, later adding that it affects his workout mentality. “You know you’ve got to work that much harder in order just to be competitive.”

Shawn said that he’s aware of other competitors’ workout routines and regimens because of the collegial atmosphere backstage during men’s competitions. On the women’s side of things, the couple joked that the participants weren’t near as friendly or prone to chatting.

“The men and women are very different in this sport,” Jennifer said. “The women, they stay to themselves, they don’t socialize with the other women; it’s kind of a dog-eat-dog world. The men are backstage, cutting up, having fun, sharing secrets. The women, you’re not getting a secret out of them.”

The pair have high hopes for the upcoming competition so close to home. Despite their professed clean training habits, they’ve become contenders in the state and region.

“I’m one of the frontrunners, so hopefully it’ll work out good,” Shawn said.

They won’t be the only locals in the event. Marcus Williams, former trainer at Gold’s Gym, where the Jacksons were training on Friday, will be competing in Shawn’s weight class. Shawn jokingly likened the matchup to “Apollo and Balboa” from the “Rocky” movies.

“Marcus Williams is my competitor,” Shawn said. “He just won a show a couple years ago, and me and him are going to be going at it.”

In addition to multiple weight classes, there will be different types of competitions at the Etherredge Center. Included in the festivities will be bikini and physique divisions, catering more to what Jennifer called the “beach body” type of build.

“Recently, they’ve opened up the sport to where more people can compete than just bodybuilders,” she said.

The event will start at 10 a.m. with the pre-judging, where the competitors will actually be judged against each other onstage, and tickets to that portion are $15. The night show – which costs $30 to attend – will take place at 6:30 p.m. and will include individuals doing their routines before the awards are handed out.

Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.

At a glance

WHAT: NPC South Carolina state bodybuilding championship

WHERE: USC Aiken’s Etherredge Center

WHEN: June 29; pre-judging at 10 a.m., night show at 6:30 p.m.

COST: $15 for pre-judging, $30 for night show