Blossoms are blooming, lobsters are racing

Madelyn Smith waits to drop her lobster in the water with her sisters Abigail and Jessica for the first lobster race at the 29th Great American Lobster Race in Aiken.



Warm weather means festival time – and the next couple weekends will be loaded with fun and activities.


THE 31ST ANNUAL Peach Blossom Festival in Johnston, S.C., will feature a free street dance on Friday, May 2, at the Municipal Parking Lot downtown from 8 to 11 p.m. Steele Justice Band will provide the music.

“The street dance always draws a big crowd, with people of all ages,” said chairwoman Debra Aston. “Many like to come and sit in their lawn chairs and listen to the music, even if they don’t dance.”

Sponsored by the Johnston Development Corp., the actual festival gets underway on Saturday, May 3, at 9 a.m. with the Peach Blossom Stroll at the Chamber of Commerce. Proceeds from the stroll go to Relay for Life.

The parade begins at 10:30 a.m., followed by activities including food vendors, arts and crafts, inflatables and Midway rides. At 3 p.m., judging for the festival’s first Fishing Tournament will take place. Entertainment will continue all day from center stage, featuring singers including Cody Webb, dancers and other performers. The festival began in 1985 and draws an average crowd of 10,000 people.


THE 30TH ANNUAL Great American Lobster Race, held in downtown Aiken, pays homage to the city’s association with Thoroughbred racing. The event begins at 5 p.m. Friday, May 2, with races at 6:30 p.m. Individuals and companies sponsor, name and race their lobsters. The lobsters compete on their own stage complete with a custom-designed “racetrack” consisting of a transparent tiered tank with five running lanes. The festival includes children’s rides, a community stage, live music on each street and the races themselves. Local restaurants are open to provide food, and there will be vendors on Newberry Street.

It has grown to be a giant reunion for the people of Aiken, said co-founder and director Todd Stilp. Drawing crowds up to 10,000, it is held each year the day before the Kentucky Derby.

“When we started, we never imagined it becoming the Aiken institution it has become,” Stilp said. “But the town has embraced the spirit of the Lobster Race and people look forward to reuniting with old friends in a fun-filled street party that entertains the whole family.”
Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students with an ID and free for children younger than 6. They are also free with a 2014 Lobster Race T-shirt.


THE S.C. POULTRY FESTIVAL is planned for Mother’s Day weekend and is about an hour’s drive from Augusta in Batesburg-Leesville, S.C. Begun in 1986 by the Leesville Merchants As­sociation, the festival draws an average of 100,000 people.

The carnival portion of the festival begins Thursday, May 8, when one can purchase an armband good for the whole weekend. A street dance will be held Friday, May 9, at 6 p.m. and will feature a shag contest.

Saturday, May 10, features a 110-plus unit parade and all-day events consisting of six stages of continuous entertainment, 30 food vendors, a carnival, 120-plus crafters and more than 30 commercial vendors, a 5K road race, a car show, a corn hole competition and the World’s Best BBQ Chicken Cookin’ Contest. This year, the Food Network will be on hand to do a segment on the Chicken Cook-off. Topping off the day will be another street dance and a fireworks display.


MEAD HALL Episcopal School in Aiken will hold its annual Strawberry Festival on Saturday, May 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the grounds of St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church on Greenville Street, between Richland and Hayne avenues.

The event features strawberry delights, games, vendors, food and entertainment featuring a children’s talent show. A wristband allows access to games, rides, face-painting and other activities. Parking is free and public transportation is available.