10,000 turn out for Aiken Lobster Race

AIKEN -- Crustaceans with names including Risky Business and Penny Pincher raced for their lives while the crowd cheered them on.

Selma Sullivan was near the stage Friday night for the Aiken Lobster Race.

“We just had a good time watching the lobsters,” the Ai­ken resident said. “You think the lobsters aren’t going to make it, but they do. It’s really something to see.”

It was the place to be in Aiken.

Sullivan said her daughter and her friends had been making plans all week to meet each other at the races Friday night. Sullivan attended last year for the first time and had such a good time that she wants to return every year.

The race draws about 10,000 people every year. It has grown into the biggest street festival in Aiken and earned the unofficial title of the biggest reunion in the city, spokeswoman Kara Flanders said.

After 29 years, it’s becoming a generational event.

“Now we’ve got grandparents bringing their grandkids,” she said.

The Lobster Race started as a spoof on the Kentucky Derby and an excuse to have fun, Flanders said.

The race winner, officials said, would be returned to the sea. The losers would earn the melted butter award.

Ann Harm was also attending for the second year. With rides for the youngsters, vendors and performances, she enjoys the family atmosphere.

“It’s almost like a county fair, with the funnel cakes and the rides for the kids,” she said.

Race Clark, the sales manager for Aaron’s Rentals and Sales, said he loves setting up at the races because it gives him a chance to meet his customers.

Beside the Badge, a fundraising group to support Aiken Public Safety, sold T-shirts to raise money to send a contingent of officers to Washington, D.C., for a memorial honoring slain Officer Scotty Richardson during National Police Officer Week.

“(The event’s organizers) are all from Aiken. We want to highlight the downtown businesses and highlight Aiken as a community,” Flanders said.

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