The Lee family had their Friday afternoon at Aiken’s Makin’ mapped out before they ever left their Aiken driveway.
“First we did face-painting, and then eating, and now we’re doing balloons, and then we’re going to do cotton candy,” 4-year-old Emerson Lee said. “And then we’re going to do what Mama wants.”
She and her little sister, Adilyn, 2, posed with their faces painted and balloon animals so their mother, Sharon, could snap a picture.
That’s the usual plan whenever they go to a festival, Lee said.
The family moved to Aiken from Chapel Hill, N.C., in June. Lee said she was thrilled to find a variety of community activities in her new city, including Aiken’s Makin’.
“This is super nice,” she said.
At the tent for Donna Jean’s Balloons and Things, the Lee girls watched wide-eyed as Donna Jean Wright, dressed in a polka-dot and striped dress and wearing a balloon crown, turned long, skinny balloons into a unicorn for Emerson and Minnie Mouse for Adilyn.
This year is Wright’s second at Aiken’s Makin’, and on Friday afternoon she hardly caught a break.
Wright, who calls herself Donna Jean the Balloon Queen, steadily blew balloons and twisted them into a variety of animals, but Minnie Mouse seemed to be a popular choice.
Chloe Frost, 2, called out “Maow Maow” as Wright began to twist black balloons into a Minnie Mouse torso for her. As the Disney character became more recognizable, Chloe grew excited and impatient to get her hands on it.
“Eyes!” she exclaimed, grabbing for the balloon doll as Wright drew Minnie’s eyes. When she finally got her hands on the balloon doll, Chloe held it tightly, smiling widely.
Chloe went to the arts festival with her mother, Patty Frost, of Appling, and aunt, Joy Bazen of Edgefield, S.C.
“We’re enjoying the day, just us girls,” Bazen said.
She picked up some banana bread and a pumpkin cream cheese loaf from an Amish bakery that was set up nearby and said she asked her sister-in-law, Frost, to help restrain her from buying too much.
A few feet away, James and Barbara Dupree sat in the shade near a colorful garden of glass-and-metal flowers.
The couple and their daughter, Amy Maxwell, drove from Moncure, N.C., near Raleigh, to set up at Aiken’s Makin’ for the second year.
The couple scours thrift stores and antiques shops for unusual plates for Barbara Dupree to use for flower blooms. James Dupree fashions the stems from metal. Next to the garden is a bright display of hummingbird feeders made from glass bottles.
Both items are popular, James Dupree said, but rarely at the same time. The couple sets up at nearly 20 festivals each year from Florida to Pennsylvania, and at one the hummingbird feeders sell better, and at the next the flowers do.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” he said.
The 37th annual Aiken’s Makin’ continues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, with more than 150 arts and crafts vendors lining Park Avenue with handmade jewelry, clothing and original artwork
For more information, including a map, visit aikensmakin.net.