Vendors from throughout the Southeast converged Friday on downtown Aiken for the 21st annual Aiken Antique Show & Sale, which brought in visitors from near and far.

Hundreds of people ventured out in the wet weather to get a glimpse at the collection of antiques and collectibles offered by the hand-picked vendors of this year's show.

Show attendees had an impressive selection of merchandise to choose from, with vendors offering everything from "pre-loved" estate jewelry, linens, furniture, paintings and just about anything in between. 

Susan Rowby was thrilled that she was able to find a turn-of-the-century baboon plant holder, an item she has been seeking for a while.

"It was a really exciting find," Rowby said.

Rowby lives in New York, but comes to Aiken during the winter with her friends for the town's festivities. She hopes to be able to stay for the steeplechase races in March, but said that "depends on her husband" back home.

Aiken resident Jenny Summers was on the hunt for a vintage ring, but was really there to enjoy the event.

While browsing, she stopped by the H & K Gallery section, which specializes in selling 18th-, 19th- and early 20th-century regional art, or "Southern art."

"I'm a painter myself, and I'm also interested in the art here," Summers said.

The Aiken Antique Show is the largest fundraiser and "most important" event for the Aiken Center for the Arts, said Caroline Gwinn, executive director of the Aiken Center for the Arts.

Proceeds help to support access to the arts, arts education, cultural activities and art exhibits, as well as community outreach and the center’s day-to-day operations.

The event additionally enables the center to fund scholarships for classes, camps, programs, art instruction and exhibits, allowing the Aiken Center for the Arts to offer learning experiences and opportunities to interested children and adults throughout the area. 

Running the event takes the effort of nearly 200 volunteers, who do everything from make food for the event, instruct vendors and more, said event organizer Lisa Castles.

"It's certainly a community effort," said Castles, who owns York Cottage Antiques. "We're standing on the work of volunteers from many years of work that has gone into building this fundraiser. It's truly humbling to have the entire community's support. " 

The event also gives Aiken vendors a chance to reconnect with new and returning vendors from all over the states.

One such vendor includes Mary Whittlemore of Birmingham, Alabama, who specializes in French, English and American furniture and accessories.

Whittlemore has slowed down in attending antique shows, from doing up to 16 a year to only three, with Aiken being one she refuses to miss. 

Whittlemore's most interesting item was a "Fabulous Fox" taxidermy piece, which turned many heads as people passed through her booth.

"I brought this piece specifically for Aiken because of its history with fox hunting," Whittlemore said.

Whittlemore said Aiken presents a "typical downtown atmosphere" for shows like the antique show.

"It's a perfect little town for a perfect little show," Whittlemore said. 

The antique show continues from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $15.

Interested attendees may also attend a pre-show lecture at 9:30 a.m. Saturday titled American Makers: Why Things Still Matter in the Digital Age” presented by Daniel K. Ackermann, curator of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts at Old Salem Museums & Gardens. 

Sunday's show will feature a Bloody Mary bar during lunch hours.