Shortly before a benefit fashion show started Sunday, Ashley Solesbee walked slowly down the stairs at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater to a small table near the edge of the pavilion to sell shirts with the words “Support Wesley Spires” encompassing the image of an American flag.
She was all smiles as supporters stopped to greet her.
“I really like how Augusta has come together like this,” Solesbee said. “I feel like it’s really important, and it’s a really good thing that they’ve come together to support two people who were just having a good time here.”
A small crowd braved the heat and humidity to attend the fashion show in support of Spires and Solesbee, who were clubbed with a metal bat or pipe as they sat on a bench on the Riverwalk Augusta the evening of May 3.
Carolyn Toole, of North Augusta, said the decision to have the event just a few paces from the scene of the attack made a strong statement.
“It says we’re not going to be afraid,” said Toole, whose daughter modeled in the show. “I’ll sit in the sun all day if it shows that I’m not afraid. This riverwalk is ours.”
The show was put on, in part, by Lindsey Kelley, who attended North Augusta High School with Solesbee.
Kelley, who owns Kelley Styling in Augusta, said the event was well-received.
“We’ve had a pretty large response from models and vendors that wanted to participate, so I think it has gotten a far reach,” she said. “A lot of the models are from North Augusta (High School), and they wanted to do this event because they wanted to support Wesley.”
Kelley said the city of Augusta granted free use of the amphitheater.
As more than 25 models strutted in the show, boaters on the river slowed to get a glimpse.
Demanti O’Bryant, who owns St. Claire Modeling in Orangeburg, S.C., said he was glad to help Kelley put on such an event.
“The whole city, even if they couldn’t make it out to the fashion show, is supporting (Spires and Solesbee) through this time,” he said. “And I think Lindsey has done well to provide the youth with alternatives instead of going down the wrong route.”
Vendors donated items and services ranging from a $600 lawnmower to photography sessions for a raffle held at the event’s conclusion. The money will go directly to Spires to help pay his hospital bill.
Solesbee said she visited Spires before the show, and teased him about his newfound fame.
“He’s in good spirits,” she said. “Every time I tell him that he is the most well-known man in Augusta, he tells me, ‘Nah.’ ”