Annual pre-spring celebrations and events are expected to draw large crowds of spectators from downtown Augusta to Aiken on Saturday.
Thousands of green-clad revelers will flood downtown to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, while many others will attend the Aiken Trials and Augusta Invitational Regatta. Spectators might want to carry an umbrella with the forecast calling for a 30 percent chance of an afternoon thunderstorm, said Leonard Vaughn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in West Columbia, S.C.
Morning clouds will break for some midday sun and a high temperature reaching the mid-80s. The greatest chance of rain is between 4 and 5 p.m., Vaughn said.
“It’ll still be a pretty nice day even though there will be some clouds,” he said.
The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade put on by the Irish-American Heritage Society of Augusta begins at 2 p.m. on Telfair and Broad streets.
“Everybody is looking forward to a Saturday parade,” said parade chairman Jason Scherer. “The bigger the better as they always say.”
Celebrations will continue into the night on the Augusta Common with Celtic dancers, other live entertainment and food vendors.
Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay said special duty deputies will monitor the crowds of pedestrians expected in downtown Augusta, especially watching for public intoxication and safe driving.
“We’re always concerned being such a drinking event, just making sure people don’t over indulge,” Gay said.
Across the river, horses and boats will be off to the races in South Carolina.
Between 6,000 and 8,000 spectators are expected at the Aiken Training Track for the 70th running of the Aiken Trials, said event spokesman Cecil Atchley. There will be three races run for 2-year-old horses and three more for older horses at the track that has produced winners at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
“We have some of the best horses and trainers here in the world,” Atchley said. “Who knows where they’ll go from here.”
The Aiken Trials are the first leg of the Aiken Triple Crown held over three consecutive Saturdays in March. Today’s event benefits the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame & Museum and the Aiken Land Conservancy.
Tailgates and vendors assemble at the race grounds, and a carriage parade and best hat contest are held.
An estimated 350 rowers from 25 crews are competing in the 29th Augusta Invitational Regatta at Langley Pond, said Gene Gilbert, boathouse manager for the Augusta Rowing Club. Heats begin at 8 a.m.
Originally held on the Savannah River, the event was moved to Langley Pond in 1997. The 99-acre pond offers calm water without a current making it the ideal race venue for sweep and sculling boats.
“It’s a great venue to watch the finish,” Gilbert said. “You can see the boats finish for the last 200 to 300 meters.”
Competitors range from junior rowers in high school to collegian teams and older.