Patriotism prevails at Fourth festivities

Staff photo by Haley Hughes Jodi Wells, Nicole Arthurs and Haley Arthurs huddle under a blanket at the Villages at Woodside Fourth of July Beach Blast during a brief rain shower.

It was as if it was a scene out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

The Fourth of July festivities around Aiken County were more than a slice of Americana.

Independence Day Celebrations at the Villages of Woodside and Gaston Livery Stables were accompanied by smiles, corn hole tosses, dunking booths, pie making competitions, watermelon seed spitting competitions and, most importantly, patriotism.

You could almost feel the sand between your toes and the ocean breeze at the Villages of Woodside's second Fourth of July Beach Blast celebration. Families picnicked, children played on the inflatables and in the sand, and there was a Bruster's Ice Cream Truck at the event from Brand Mortgage of Augusta. Hot dogs and hamburgers were available with a donation to the Aiken-Augusta Wounded Warrior Charity Golf Classic.

“When we brought the Aiken-Augusta Wounded Warriors in with us, it meant the world,” said Eddie Elkins, who manned the grill for the Brand Mortgage event truck. “It's a true calling for anyone who came out. For a wounded warrior to step up and do what they do, how can I not come out and volunteer?”

The Gaston Livery Stables provided the backdrop for the Aiken July Fourth Celebration.

The historical significance of the day sent more than salvos into the horizon as an array of vendors, featuring food items and other wares, a variety of activities offering something for everyone and the musical talents of Preston and Weston carried the symbolic message of freedom and liberty, evoking a sense of patriotism making the heart of those in attendance swell with pride.

This was the second Aiken Fourth of July Celebration held at the Gaston Livery Stables, and for the event's organizer, Jane Page Thompson, it was very personal.

“This is one of America's historic barns,” said Thompson. “If you think of Paul Revere's ride, you think of George Washington's stately horse named Nelson, which was bred by my family.

You think of the great equestrian history of Aiken and our nation. It's fitting to have a celebration for the people who founded our country and preserved those freedoms and liberties that we enjoy.”

The Aiken Fourth of July Celebration was free to the public, and the sponsors played a critical role, said Thompson. The event wouldn't have been possible without their support. AllStar Tents and Events upgraded the size of the tents at the celebration and acted as the event's co-sponsor providing a number of services.

“It's always a team effort,” said Thompson. “We appreciate our sponsors, AllStar Events, Atlantic Broadband, Security Federal Bank, Rep. Bill Taylor, Rep. Tom Young, Councilwomen Price and Diggs, K.T. Ruthven and Coldwell Banker, Aiken Properties and Paula Blessing and the Friends of the Gaston Livery Stables, Colleen Reed, Gary Dexter, Elliot Levy and Dave Tavinier.”

The first Fourth of July Celebration was held in Eastport, Maine, said Colleen Reed. Aiken's festivities held true to its predecessor, inspiring a deep sense of palpable patriotism.

“The community has been very generous with their time, finances, expertise and supplies,” said Reed. “One way that we're able to give back to the community is by hosting the event.”

Ben Baugh has been covering the equine industry and equestrian sport for the Aiken Standard since 2004.

Haley Hughes is the news editor for the Aiken Standard. She joined the newspaper in 2007 and covered the Aiken County government until her promotion in 2013.