Red crustaceans raced to save themselves from a pot of boiling water Friday night.
Hundreds of people headed to see them at the 29th annual Great American Lobster Race in downtown Aiken, cheering for lobsters crawling in tanks of cold water toward the finish line.
“In Aiken, you usually think of horses running. We do a spoof on it with lobsters,” said Rebecca Fanning, 18.
Dozens of lobsters were kept in a holding tank before being randomly selected to run the race for sponsors. Proceeds from the event were donated to programs for the mentally and physically challenged in Aiken County. Fanning jockeyed a red crustacean, as she has for several years.
“My lobster did not move,” she said. “He stayed in the corner.”
Rojito Caribo, a lobster sponsored by Max Blanco, of Augusta, earned first place in one of 11 heats during the event. Blanco also won first place last year. His secret was selecting the right jockeys: his two nieces, Maria and Sophia Flanagan, who wore hats resembling lobster claws.
“You put them in there and hope for the best,” Blanco said. “It’s an odd event, but it’s enjoyable.”
Jay Watts, the owner of Family Pharmacy in Aiken, hoped his lobster, Scrippy, would be as fast as the pharmacy’s prescription delivery car with the same name.
“This is an Aiken tradition,” Watts said. “Where else can you see a lobster race?”
The Aiken High School Class of 1968 sponsored a lobster. Class member Patsy Hunt cheered hard but wasn’t too disappointed with her slow-crawling entry.
“I really didn’t care who won,” Hunt said. “I just love cheering.”