The old shutters from inside our Hotel Aiken room
Saturday morning, David and I travelled through small town South Carolina on our way to Aiken, where their 2nd annual bluegrass festival was underway. As we climbed from the Lowcountry into the hills, we witnessed the depressed backdrops of southern small town America. While listening to John Prine, his famous line, “there’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes” took on a whole new meaning while I watched the bleak and forgotten places roll by.
Interestingly enough, between Aiken and Allendale lay the Savannah River Site, which we discovered is government owned land and a hotbed of plutonium production. I keep wondering if there was ever big industry here, but it is hard to tell and looks as if it packed its bags generations ago.
Aiken, on the other hand, is an historically rich and thriving town. The festival attracted some big-time musicians and the town was a buzz, especially outside the Aiken Brewing Company. Their handcrafted beer was a treat, and Aiken definitely caters to beer lovers. To sleep it off, Hotel Aiken boasts a recent total renovation. While it still needs some polishing, the high ceilings, old-school original elevator, shuttered windows, and Peter Rowan wandering the halls in his pajamas, guitar in hand, all added to the charm.
The town is known for its equestrian roots, which were kindly brought to it by northerners who preferred the warm climate in the winter. They liked it so much, they eventually brought their horses and are the source of the equestrian presence there today.
Gary Strong says
When did you acquire your knowledge of diverse music? Was it when you were living on the North Shore of the Ohio River, or in your Mother’s womb? Personally, the history would attract me more than the music. Appears that a good time was had by all that attended!
Mark Buban says
Aiken? That’s where William Perry is from…also known as “The Fridge.” Or “biscuit” as Dan Hampton called him…apparently he was a biscuit away from being 350 lbs. Sounds like you guys had a great time…I like the image too.
Darryl Hudson says
Hotel Aiken is a cool historic place and situated right on the corner of one of our main intersections in town. Hope you enjoyed our normally quiet little town. If you were here during the week of the bluegrass festival, you may have heard my band, Savannah River Bluegrass Band. We have performed at this festival every year it’s been going on, for it is our hometown festival. You mentioned the Savannah River Site; I have worked there for 26+ years, and it has gone down since the duPont Company left in 1988. Facilities have been shut down and the once well manicured grounds are now now tall bahaya grass and weeds. Missons are coming and going there at the site. I just hope I can stay employed there for another 49 months and I’ll let them send my check to the house.