Originally created 05/08/99

Lobsters draw lively crowd

AIKEN -- So what do you give a "birthday boy" who's wealthy enough to own a chunk of a baseball team?

An evening at Aiken's Lobster Races and a chance to hear his favorite band, the Swinging Medallions, live seemed like a pretty good idea to Patty Bostick of Winter Haven, Fla., who arranged the trip with seven couples as a surprise for her husband.

It was just melted butter on the entree that Mark Bostick, on the eve of his 45th birthday, also got to drop a lobster into lane four of the official racecourse.

It didn't even matter that his lobster, "Risky Business," sponsored by a brokerage firm, lost to "Pencil Pusher," sponsored by an office supplier.

"It's a birthday I'm going to remember," said Mr. Bostick, a co-owner of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. "I'm having a great time."

Half an hour before the Swinging Medallions belted their first number, Mustang Sally, Mrs. Bostick said they loved the atmosphere and the notion of a town that races lobsters for charity.

The annual street party -- which also features food and beer -- benefits Aiken County's mentally and physically disabled people.

The sale of red floppy foam lobster hats, which must be seen to be believed, aids Special Olympics.

Sidney Steadman of Aiken still has a cloth lobster hat he bought at the first races 15 years ago.

But this year he had a bright-red lobster painted on his bald head, the antennae dipping onto his forehead, and the tail spread across his neck.

His wife, Bobbi, found a friend to paint the critter. "I just hope it washes off," she said.

Ten-year-old Spencer Morgan of Edgefield waved his hand wildly in the air when he saw that official lobster trainers would let kids sub for them at the starting gates.

"It just looked like fun," Spencer said. "It was hard -- and kind of wiggly."

Race organizer Chuck Martin apologized for some sluggish entries this year, including The Augusta Chronicle's "Oldest Lobster in the South," which barely moved.

The water in the race track was 61 degrees, he said, because cooler weather had been expected.

According to Mr. Martin, who gained his expertise at the original backyard party where the lobster race was invented, "It really should be between 46 and 54 degrees. Lobsters go dormant in water that's too cold, he said, and hot water makes them -- well, nervous."

Margaret N. O'Shea can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.


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