Downtown Aiken looked more like a coastal town on Friday and Saturday with the new, two-day Beach Blast held on Newberry Street. The scene was created by the Aiken Downtown Development Association with tons of sand, inflatable sea creatures and palm trees, and a wide array of beach music pumped along the street.


This weekend’s event was the first year the Beach Blast occurred over two days, beginning with a dance party on Friday and a full day of beach related activities on Saturday.


The festival helped to usher in the first weekend of summer, according to Thurmond Whatley, president-elect of the Development Association.


“We kicked it up to a higher level, and it looks like it’s been a roaring success. We’re delighted,” Whatley said.


He applauded the efforts of the group’s Executive Director Carla Cloud and noted the event helps to put a spotlight on the city’s “beautiful” downtown area.


This year’s Beach Blast also featured an Aiken Horsepower Cruise-in with several classic and new cars on display, sand castle building, a rock wall and several food vendors.


Development Association Board Member Karla Heitkamp said many of the kids at this weekend’s event particularly liked the water related activities to keep cool from the sun’s rays.


“The water slide seems to be the biggest hit,” Heitkamp noted with a laugh. “They’re lining up for that.”


Shane Bagby, Beech Blast chairman, said the event is special because it incorporates events for both kids and adults.


“We had a very good crowd. Thankfully the weather participated,” Bagby said. “We have lots of activities for families. We’ve got everything ranging from shag music for the older folks to a movie matinee and kid’s related activities.”


He added that the event ties in well with the mission of the Development Association.


“Our goal is to bring people downtown and encourage them to go shop with our local merchants and eat at our restaurants,” he said. “We feel like we’re doing a great job with that.”


Michael Ulmer covers the county government beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since March 2013. He is a native of North Augusta and majored in political science at the University of South Carolina.