Centennial Picnic to mark 100th Aiken Horse Show

SUBMITTED PHOTO FROM THE COLLECTION OF MRS. WHITNEY TOWER Picnickers enjoy a past Aiken Horse Show many years ago.

The Aiken Horse Show will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a Centennial Picnic in the Woods on its opening day, April 1.

The catered lunch will start at 11:45 a.m., and will be held under a tent at the show grounds in Hitchcock Woods. It is open to the public and tickets cost $25 apiece. Tables of eight also are available for $350 each.

“Picnicking has been a big tradition throughout the decades of the Aiken Horse Show,” said Christine Rolka, executive director of the Hitchcock Woods Foundation. “We are going to have traditional picnic kind of fare like cucumber sandwiches, pimento cheese sandwiches and chicken salad. There also will be a biscuit bar with different kinds of jams and relishes.”

“Cooking in Old Creole Days,” a book written by Celestine Eustis, was an inspiration for the menu, “but there will be some modern twists,” Rolka said.

More than 100 years ago, Eustis brought her niece, Louise Eustis, to Aiken in hopes that the climate here would restore her fragile health.

In 1891, Louise married Thomas Hitchcock Sr., a prominent New York horseman. She convinced her husband to come to Aiken, and he discovered the sandy soil in the area was a perfect surface on which to train his horses.

The Hitchcocks later invited their friends to visit them in Aiken and ended up helping to establish the Winter Colony, where wealthy northerners built huge homes and enjoyed a variety of equine-related activities. The Hitchcocks also were involved in starting the Aiken Horse Show in 1916.

At the Centennial Picnic, there will be vintage vehicles on display, and attendees will be able to use them as backdrops for any photographs they wish to take.

In addition, “we will have a PowerPoint-style presentation of photos of the Horse Show over the years playing on a continuous loop,” Rolka said.

The Aiken Horse Show is a three-day event and will continue through April 3. There is no cost for admission, but people who drive their vehicles to the show grounds instead of walking will have to pay $10 to park.

Pedestrians can go through any Hitchcock Woods entrance, but drivers of vehicles must use the South Boundary entrance.

On any of the Horse Show’s three days, attendees are welcome to bring their own picnics, Rolka said. They also will be able to purchase food from the Dinner Bell concession stand.

Competition starts at 9 a.m. each day.

To purchase tickets to the Centennial Picnic, call 803-642-0528.

For more information about the Horse Show, visit www.hitchcockwoods.org or www.aikenhorseshow.org.

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.