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Aiken
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Center for Carolina Living It’s high-class, honey: Aiken breathes good taste. Get a sense of the rarefied atmosphere at the yearly Aiken Horse Show in Hitchcock Woods, the 2,000-acre “Central Park” of the city. In operation since 1916, the three-day event includes classes for children and adults and a buffet luncheon. Perhaps the most distinguishing factor are the cars - allowed in Hitchcock Woods only during this event.
Photo by Larry Gleason of Southside Gallery
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on a street called easy, in a cottage called joye
written by gregory white smith.
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Aiken
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ike and Mary Benko are originally from Chicago, but lived in a number of towns before recently settling at Cedar Creek in Aiken.

“We were first attracted by the climate, and then by the careful community planning here,” explained Mrs. Benko from her new home. They like the slower pace of Aiken, and the way neighbors get to know one another as friends.

“It’s so easy to find people with the same interests.” In fact, they’ve met more people in the last six months than they ever met at their previous home.

Mrs. Benko plans to begin volunteering, perhaps with Meals on Wheels, or an animal rescue organization. Mr. Benko enjoys playing golf, although his handicap has gone up since he moved.

“It’s a very challenging course,” he explained, referring to the Arthur Hills-designed course which runs through the community.

They’ve found Aiken to be a charming town, “full of history and lots of Southern tradition.” They enjoy the local restaurants, such as Up Your Alley and Devors, and the Aiken Brewery Company is a fun place to stop for a beer.

Welcome to Aiken. It is the kind of town people write books about. In fact, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Gregory White Smith and Steven Naifeh chronicled their restoration of a mansion in On a Street Called Easy, In a Cottage Called Joye.

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y turns funny and sad, the book examines the lives of the sometimes tragic, wealthy people who built and inhabited Joye Cottage during Aiken’s heyday as a winter colony in the late 1800s. It also describes the town as they found it a century later – filled with friendly people who want to make Aiken the best it can be.

Betsy Wilson-Mahoney is an artist who was born and raised in Aiken and loves the community. “I think Aiken is very supportive of all kinds of art,” she explained. “When I attended college, I didn’t find another art student who wanted to return to their home town after graduating. They didn’t feel the support that I have always seen here – for visual as well as performing arts.”

Aiken Center for the Arts currently has three galleries that rotate shows approximately every three or six weeks. A variety of classes is offered for children, teenagers and adults, and the many unique shops feature the work of local as well as regional and national artists.

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Center for Carolina Living In addition to arts, culture and recreation, Aiken is quite an equestrian center. The game of polo is enjoying a renaissance here, with six polo clubs, training tracks and playing fields. Center for Carolina Living
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The Aiken Polo Festival takes place in the fall. More than 50 amateur and professional polo players call Aiken home. As a result, the area has become the spring and fall center of polo on the East Coast.

Captain Pat Williams and his wife, Shelley, are also enjoying their retirement in Aiken. He was in the high-stress job as director of facilities management for the New York State Police and built a home in the Reserve section of Woodside Plantation because, “it had everything we wanted, including being within the city limits, yet off by itself.”

He chose Aiken for its laid-back, friendly atmosphere. He enjoys being around horses and the folks who love them. Golf is another favorite that is on the agenda. His wife is looking forward to volunteer work.

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Center for Carolina Living “I loved our visit to Hawaii, but it’s very expensive, and too windy for golf,” he laughed. “Aiken is perfect for us.”
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Health care is another big draw for the area. Recently, Universal Health Services completed a $15 million dollar construction and equipment purchase at Aiken Regional Medical Centers, further upgrading already excellent facilities.

The vibrant downtown is the envy of many cities. Newberry Street has been recently transformed into a festival area. It’s also the new home of the community theater, which came about in another one of those unique public-private partnerships which characterize how Aiken gets things done.

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Margaret N. O'Shea is a retired journalist who now investigates legal cases for lawyers. She was a newspaper reporter for 37 years, nominated four times for a Pulitzer Prize and three times named South Carolina Journalist of the Year by the Society of Professional Journalists. She lives in Columbia and continues to write. Center for Carolina Living
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Katherine O. Pettit has worked as a writer, magazine editor, printer and public relations consultant. The Columbia resident has published more than 250 articles in magazines and newspapers. Her writing explores a variety of subjects including travel, lifestyles, business and management. Center for Carolina Living
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