The Great American Lobster Race scuttles back into Aiken on Friday.


For the past 30 years, thousands have packed Newberry Street Festival Center to watch about 100 crustaceans crawl their way down to the finish line, each competing for a chance to be released back into the sea.


Gates for the 30th running of the Great American Lobster Race of Aiken will open at 5 p.m. on Newberry Street, and entertainment is expected to run until 11 p.m.


The race began in 1985 as a homage to the Aiken's deep connection to Thoroughbred racing, similar to the Kentucky Derby. For those who have never attended the event, Lobster Race Publicist Sarah Eakin said this is an opportunity to attend a unique event in Aiken.


“It's always a unique event, a lot of fun and very family-oriented,” Eakin said. “So there's something for everyone. There's children's rides, live music, performances by local groups and the lobster race. If you've never seen it, you have to go at least once.”


Each lobster has their own stage and “racetrack,” which includes a tiered, transparent tank with running lanes. Companies and individuals can sponsor, name and race their lobster for $125.


“The tanks are transparent, so you can watch the lobsters move across, the tank,” Eakin said. “It's fun, its really fun, and it's fun to cheer on your favorite lobster.”


The sponsor for this year's event is Atlantic Broadband.


Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students with a student ID and children 6 and younger will be admitted for free. Admission is free for those who purchase a 2014 Lobster Race T-shirt for $20 at Atlantic Broadband, Lionel Smith Ltd., Aaron's Sales and Rentals, Hitchcock Healthcare and All-Star Rents.


Anyone over 21 with an ID can purchase a wristband for $1 to consume alcoholic beverages on-site.


Proceeds from the Lobster Race benefit clients served by Tri-Development Center of Aiken, Hitchcock Healthcare, Augusta Warrior Project and Aiken County Special Olympics.


For more information, visit www.lobsterrace.com.


Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @MaayanSchechter.