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Wild West Fest underway at Battle of Aiken site

One of Aiken County's biggest reenactment events is underway this weekend, with emphasis on the late 19th century and the territory linked to such characters as Doc Holliday, Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull and Jesse James.

Wild West Fest, a two-day gathering held at the Battle of Aiken site, on Powell Pond Road, is to conclude today, with activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., emphasizing cowboy culture and offering a family-friendly look at some of the customs and culture from the days of Geronimo and Billy the Kid.

Saturday's high-profile visitors included Joe Long, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum's curator of education, who gave a talk on gunslingers linked to South Carolina and Georgia history.

Some participants also represented other periods in American history, with Revolutionary War uniforms being part of the scene, as was the attire brought by Leesville resident Dane Coffman, who focuses on World War I and the Mexican Expedition.  

Among the younger re-enactors on hand Saturday was Edgefield County resident Joshua Garrison, 18, who was the oldest of eight homeschool siblings. "My dad's been taking me to these things since I was about 5," he said, describing the experience as "a fun way to learn history."

LaDonna Heise, who runs a local business (The Party Ponies), was in multiple roles, offering pony rides while dressed in Native American-style attire and also taking part in a "shotgun wedding" in the lead female role. That event is to be offered again today at about noon.

Among other offerings today are pony rides, hayrides, "cowboy church" (10 a.m.), an assortment of live music and several shootouts (noon, 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.). 

Admission is $5 per person and free for anyone 12 or younger. The host site, just south of Interstate 20 Exit 18, is largely known as the site of the annual Battle of Aiken reenactment, which focuses on local history from February 1865. 

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