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.