Aiken's Makin' ended another successful run Saturday, an official for the popular arts and crafts show said, but the end of this year's event means the beginning of next year's.
Planning committee members will start preparing for next year's show in October. In January, applications will go out for the 2019 Aiken's Makin', which is sponsored by the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce.
John McMichael, a co-chairman of the show, said he was “ecstatic” about the thousands of people who packed more than two blocks of Park Avenue on Friday and Saturday to shop for jewelry, clothing, gifts, homemade foods and decorative items.
“Either the economy is better or people have saved their time and money to come out and buy,” McMichael said Saturday morning. “There were a lot of people with packages in their hands yesterday. They weren't just lookers. They were buyers. One of the vendors who has been here for the last three years said this year was just exponentially better than the other years.”
Food – everything from funnel cakes to alligator bites and fresh-squeezed lemonade to wine – is a big part of the festival.
“Several of the food vendors said 'we love it. Please make sure we're back next year,'” McMichael said. “That's the nicest compliment you can get. We try to take care of the vendors, whether they're craters or food vendors, and they really appreciate that. Every year, they say that this is the friendliest crowd they have all year, and that is a great statement to make about the City of Aiken and the surrounding area.”
In addition to being friendly, Aiken's Makin' is “clean” and “green” and has won awards for being environmentally forward, McMichael said.
The event partners with Dumpster Depot to make it as easy as possible for patrons to recycle waste.
“We really started having success when we gave people an option of throwing it away forever or putting it back into our economy to make goods again,” said Norman Dunagan, the founder of Dumpster Depot. “Aiken's Makin' was one of the first outdoor events in South Carolina to go zero waste. That zero waste is a journey. It doesn't mean that we've accomplished it, but almost 40 percent of waste products from Aiken's Makin' is diverted from landfills now.”
Ellis Rhinehart, 4, munched on teriyaki chicken on a stick with a little help from his mom, Maria Rhinehart. He didn't leave a lot to be thrown away. All that was left was the wooden skewer.
Rhinehart, from Aiken, said she always takes a “few treasures” home from Aiken's Makin', but she and Ellis come for the food, especially for baked goods from the New Holland Mennonite Church.
“I come specifically for this tent,” she said. “Everything is just so fresh and tastes homemade. It's not something you can buy at a bakery. It just tastes so good and so fresh. It's amazing.”
Wearing a sparkling tiara, Chaney Feagin of Warrenville circulated the crowd as part of her public service requirement as Young Miss Teen North Augusta. She will compete statewide in the scholarship program for the title of Little Miss South Carolina in July 2019 in Hartsville.
“I'm kind of nervous, but I'm looking forward to going on stage and having a good time with all of my friends,” said Chaney, a daughter of Brian and Karla Feagin and an eighth-grader at Langley-Bath-Clearwater Middle School.
“I'm so proud of her and the confidence she has and the character this has instilled in her,” her mom said.
Gerald Walsh and his wife, Lisa, the owners of Palmetto Porch Woodworks in Windsor, were first-time vendors at Aiken's Makin'.
Walsh designs and hand makes furniture – mostly outdoor tables – from cypress wood as a hobby.
“All the cypress is from the Edisto River, so it's local,” Walsh said. “I mill and plane everything. It's a lengthy process but a good product to put outside. Cypress is rot-resistant and insect-resistant.”
Walsh, who works full-time and sells at two or three craft shows a year, said he had “good crowds” at his first Aiken's Makin'.
“We're doing pretty good on sales. We usually get a lot of repeat business,” he said. “So far, so good.”