Arts and Entertainment Scene in Aiken, SC

Aiken’s cultural climate spans an all-embracing spectrum

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On Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - 06:25

From its long history in horse racing to today’s growing artistic presence, Aiken’s cultural climate spans an all-embracing spectrum. It is hard to find an area that so delicately combines preserved history, modern convenience and family-friendly activities like Aiken.

Walking around downtown, you will find a booming business district with an array of offerings for shoppers and diners. Looking to be entertained? At the Aiken Community Playhouse, performances dot weekends of every month. Other performing arts include Aiken Civic Ballet, the longest continuously operating dance company in the state, Aiken Performing Arts Group and Aiken Choral Society.

The choral society often performs at the Aiken Historical Museum, which features numerous exhibits and is located downtown in a former “winter colony” mansion. Art buffs will adore the stimulating displays at the Aiken Center for the Arts, with exhibits that rotate every three to six weeks. When the weather’s nice, stroll through the one of the few sculpture gardens in the entire region. The sculpture garden is located on the grounds of Jackson Gallery, a renovated Victorian mansion that also houses contemporary art in its halls. And Aiken hosts plenty of events to keep your calendar full, such as the popular Bluegrass Festival at the Highfields Showgrounds. The three-day affair honors the many forms of bluegrass found today. Other citywide events include the Western Carolina Fair and The Battle of Aiken reenactment.

But above all, Aiken celebrates a love of horses. Trials, harness racing and steeplechase events are held throughout the year, which is no surprise, as the father of American steeplechasing was Thomas Hitchcock, a famed horse trainer and polo player who brought the sport to his Aiken estate. The horseracing community comes alive each March during the Aiken Triple Crown, three back-to-back weekends of races. Players and spectators fill local racetracks and polo fields, especially Whitney Field, which has the distinction of having the longest continuous play of any polo field in the country.