AIKEN — Having attended the Great American Lobster Race for years, Jeff Langley and his family decided it was time to put their love of the event on display.
His family entered the Newberry Street Festival Center in Aiken on Friday, passing rows of carnival rides and face-painting stations on their way to Lobster Downs, a play on the Kentucky Derby venue, Churchill Downs.
Langley led the way, pulling a red wagon with plastic lobsters draped on the side. Inside sat his 4-year-old grandson, Colton Overcash.
Langley admitted he has grown tired of watching the crustaceans run.
“I’d rather be eating one of them,” he said with a chuckle.
A sizeable crowd descended on downtown Aiken for the 30th annual running of the lobsters, some stopping to get food and drinks while others planted themselves near one of six stages featuring live performances.
Sitting near the fountain on Newberry Street, Gail and Jerry Boatwright waited for their granddaughter, Reagan, to take the stage to perform a tap routine.
Jerry Boatwright, who has attended the races since their inception, said he enjoys the atmosphere more than the races themselves.
“I remember when there was nothing like this here,” he said. “Things have changed for the better. We’re still a small town, but I like seeing things like this.”
Though Aiken is known for its love of horses, Boatwright said he is glad everyone can shift their attention toward a more unorthodox brand of racing.
“When the horses aren’t racing, we’ve got to race something,” he said.
With a clear view of the track from his home near Park Avenue and Newberry Street, Eric Brinkley chatted with passers-by as they stopped to admire his dog, Hazel. The 9-year-old Boston Terrier pranced around the yard in a lobster costume.
“It kind of kicks off spring for me,” Brinkley said. “One of my favorite things to do is to watch how people react when they have the lobster in their hands.”