Aiken Steeplechase's racing acreage played host to hundreds of visitors without a horse in sight Friday evening, with Aiken Standard's annual beach music festival providing an extremely dance-friendly soundtrack.
The Swingin' Medallions, dating back to the early 1960s, presented several decades of hits, including "Double Shot," their signature song, and mostly upbeat covers such as "Carolina Girls," "Wooly Bully," Brick House" and "Hey! Baby," all in a high-energy show with hundreds of listeners and dozens of dancers in the moist and occasionally muddy mix.
This year's event included temperatures in the low to middle 60s, so summer-style attire was relatively scarce. The state dance, the shag, got plenty of attention, and the musical act was a hit, in the assessment of Janet Fram, who saw the Swingin' Medallions for the first time.
"I was very impressed with their costumes, the beautiful dancing they did along with the great voices and the way they handled their instruments," she said.
The event, coming in the midst of a wet week, included some concerns about weather, but the evening was rain-free and organizers worked to keep mud to a minimum, with plenty of straw in the mix, and provided a sandy area in front of the stage, to add a little beach-style atmosphere. Sand can be a challenging foundation for some dance moves, so some dancers opted for grass.
Chris Crowe, who has been part of the band since 1996, was on duty, helping with vocals, keyboards and baritone saxophone.
"Y'all had a really good set-up, minus the water," he said. "None of the guys in the band had ever seen the horse track behind the stage, and that's a real nice venue out there. I wish we could come back during some of those functions at the track."
The band, he said, probably averages two to three shows a week, including a slowdown in the winter months, and currently includes two sons of the group's original members. Joe Morris, one of the originals, was also on board for some of Friday's songs, helping with percussion.
Morris' original bandmates included Brent Forston, Perrin Gleaton, Jimmy Perkins, Freddie Pugh, Charles Webber, Carroll Bledsoe, Jimbo Doares, John McElrath, Jake Bartley and Roy Davenport.
Caterers on board for Friday's fun included Jerry's Kettle Korn, Foodie Food Truck, Blue Collard Catering, Aiken Fish House, Don Ramon’s, Newberry Hall, Augusta Pop Company and Beefed Up. Sponsors were Jack Rogers Tire Pros, Vikki's Boutique, The Gail Gingery Team, Aloha Aesthetics, Master Chevrolet Cadillac, Overhead Door, Hibbitts Drug Co., Aiken Steeplechase, Seniors Helping Seniors and Hearing Associates of South Carolina.