Aiken's Makin' has strong turn out for new vendors and layout

Downtown flocked with thousands of visitors for arts-and-crafts event

Aiken’s Makin’ was three city blocks buzzing with almost 30,000 shoppers and more than 200 vendors and exhibitors Friday and Saturday.

“It’s a very intense two days. This is a great show for us, but it’s intense,” said Rob Haines of Windows on the Green concessions from Burnsville, N.C.

The line at Windows stretched down the street as patrons waited patiently for funnel cakes topped with powdered sugar or cinnamon,along with their choice of fresh strawberries and whipped cream, chocolate fudge, peanut butter, maple syrup and walnuts, chocolate chips or caramel.

Now in its 35th year, the arts-and-crafts event featured a new layout this year in the historic downtown, with Park Avenue closed and vendors in the roadway instead of in the parkways. David Jameson, president of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce, said the change was because of a new storm water alleviation system. The change was good, he said, because it made the event accessible for wheelchairs and strollers.

“It used to be in the grass and mud and you had to hop over the curb. So, this is a welcome improvement. It’s much better,” said Courtney Paschal of New Ellenton, as she pushed a toddler and infant in a double stroller.

First-time vendor Connie Gibson stayed busy taking orders for crocheted adult hats that she’d sold out of. Gibson said she drove five hours with a friend to get to Aiken, and complained about the distance the whole way.

“But, by the end of the day (Friday), I was telling her ‘I love you,’ ” Gibson said with a laugh. “I thought I’d brought too many (hats), but I sold out before noon. I will definitely be back next year.”

Jameson said one-third of the crafters were new this year. The event is a juried event, meaning applicants have to prove their item is homemade, and then must be approved by judges.

“We’ve been coming ever since the beginning, and they’ve done a good job bringing in new vendors this year,” said Mike Jackson of Aiken. “Even when we lived in Atlanta for 12 years, we still came.”

Whether they sold foot-long corn dogs or shrimp on a stick, every food vendor was swamped. Heyward Widener, an employee of Bailey’s Concessions that sold half-gallon insulated jugs of fresh-squeezed lemonade, said he’d cut up four bushels of lemons Saturday.

“I look forward to this every year,” Widener said. “This is my favorite event we go to.”

Exhibitors included organic pain relief, art and photography, yard ornaments, hand-woven baskets, jewelry, pottery, Christmas décor, clothing and personalized items galore.

“It was nice, wonderful,” said Jeff Kaney as he left the event with his family. “I had a blast. It wasn’t scorching hot. So, it just couldn’t get any better.”