Crowds enjoy good weather, good times at 51st steeplechase
Grayson Lewis knows her favorite part of Spring Steeplechase, only 4, she’s already been to the event for three years, which apparently has been enough time to make up her mind.
Grayson quickly chimed in when her mother Nichole said they enjoy the tailgate and also have fun watching the track.
“I think the carriage parade is our favorite since we’ve had her,” Nichole Lewis said.
“No,” the toddler responded. ”... I like the easter egg hunt.”
The mother and daughter duo was dressed in matching pink, printed Lilly Pulizter dresses and also donned white fascinators. The two, along with husband and dad, Brian Lewis, were all smiles as they started setting up their tailgate Saturday morning for Steeplechase.
“I’ve been coming since I was in college. Probably the last 10 years,” Nichole said. “We have a great spread coming in, but we have some friends that join us. They get the parking spot right next to us, and we set up and hang out.”
The family was part of the large crowd that had gathered at the Aiken Horse Park on Saturday for the 51st running Spring Steeplechase. The event featured six races and a handful of activities including a hat contest and crazy pants contest for patrons.
During the afternoon, a group of children swarmed the Easter bunny for photo ops. A short time later, children like Grayson delighted in collecting as many eggs as they could during the egg hunt.
Pleasant spring temperatures were credited to the number of spectators who came to Steeplechase, and people appeared eager to usher in the season with an event that has remained a tradition for so many.
“We’ve had a very large turnout, and I think that is due to the early spring weather we’ve had,” said Aiken Spring Steeplechase’s Executive Director Rebecca Vigné. “People just have Steeplechase on their mind. We’re really excited about the crowd, (and) we’re hoping for the safety of our patrons and riders.”
Before the races began, families, friends and students settled in their parking spaces, hoisted their tents and laid out their food. On the menu for some included pimento cheese, sandwiches and even cupcakes with small horses adorning the top.
Robin Rabun’s family assembled at their usual spot, one she said they’ve had for more than 30 years. The family enjoys the tradition each year and treasures most the time spent with family and friends, according to Rabun’s daughter-in-law, Megan Jensen.
“We want our kids to grow up with that same tradition,” Jensen said.
While some look forward to their favorite activities and others enjoy time spent together; each year, some people experience Steeplechase for the first time.
Ryan and Sheryl Tschetter visited Aiken from Dana Point, California.
“It’s very interesting and fun,” Sheryl Tschetter said, adding they were familiar with equine life after having previously living in Norco, California, which she referred to as the “horse capital of the world.”
The Tschetters were invited by family members, who apparently kicked off the weekend with plenty of fun.
“We had to go to bed early last night, because the group we’re with is quite a party group,” Sheryl said with a laugh. “We were not prepared.”
Ivan Panko, who lives in Aiken, also was a first-timer to the event. Panko’s outfit resembled a pirate’s costume.
“This is my first Steeplechase, actually,” Panko said. “They said dress up. I think I might have misinterpreted it.”