Call it Columbia on adrenaline, moving at the speed of flight.
Where else but on this lovely, temperate Saturday in April could you roll in the mud, hop aboard a bike, rub shoulders with USC football players, explore a jeep, hitch a ride aboard a plane, play a round of poker, become a recycled fashionista and just generally have an old-fashioned, outdoors great time?
Like the White Rabbit in Alices Adventures in Wonderland, folks in the Midlands took off in all directions in search of a good time, a good cause and some good eats.
By the thousands, they rolled in the mud of Sandy Run to prove they had Marine-style guts, rubbed shoulders with USC football coach Steve Spurrier, crowded into Finlay Park to celebrate freedom, embarked on a Historic Columbia scavenger hunt, took to the air to raise money for cancer, hard-charged around Lake Murray on high-tech bikes to prove their stamina, strutted some eclectic runway fashions, and threw every kind of ball imaginable.
In Irmo, the Tour de Lake bike ride began at 7:30 a.m., with nearly 100 participants gathering at Saluda Shoals Park, slathering on sunscreen and preparing for what your ordinary mortal might consider more than a typical weekend bike cruise.
This is a good, relaxing, scenic ride, said Columbia cyclist Aaron West, 39. He was one of about 35 people who chose the longest of three routes on the Tour de Lake, a 100-mile route going around Lake Murray.
Others chose the less demanding 40 or 62.5 mile course of the Tour de Lake, organized by the Rotary Club of Lake Murray-Irmo.
West expected to take his time, finishing what they call The Century in five to six hours. If I pushed it, I could probably do it in four-and-a-half, he said.
Jennie Wild and her husband, Mark, run and cycle together and signed up for the ride because of the setting.
We love the lake, she said.
Pushing it, Part 2, with a side of Marine fortitude
How do you psych yourself up to dash through a nasty 5.2-mile, all-terrain obstacle course known as the Leatherneck, when the obstacles include mud pits, walls, rope swings and trenches?
Chris Peck, Adolfo Garcia and sisters Amelia and Anna Chassevent decided to decorate their team T-shirts with the word beast because the U.S. Marine Corps Ultimate Challenge Mud Run looked just like one.
They drove from Greenville for the event, held in rural Sandy Run, about 20 miles south of Columbia. They werent the only crazy ones. The grueling course drew 6,400 participants and between 10,000 and 12,000 spectators.
Called the ultimate in obstacle courses or, as one participant shouted Saturday, the Mac Daddy it is touted as one of the largest mud runs in North America. Sixty Marines man the course, ordering some friendly push-ups for those who dont complete the course in a timely fashion.
Now in its 19th year, the Mud Run has escalated in popularity so much in recent years that organizers created a second run in the fall, after terrible traffic backups in 2010 caused headaches.
Mud Run director Bill Toomey said 300 teams registered on the events website within the first hour it was up in October. About 400 volunteers and a number of deputies directing traffic helped the run, which benefits the Greater Columbia Marine Foundations charity work, go off without a hitch.
Serious athletes begin planning early. One telephoned Toomey last fall to get a sense of the course. After a series of questions, Toomey finally told the runner, Relax, this aint the Boston Marathon.
But it is, the caller responded. For us, this is the Boston Marathon.
Toss it to ME!
OK, enough about zone coverage and the mysteries of offense and defense.
What the 800 or so women who signed up for the annual Steve Spurrier Ladies Football Clinic waited for was this: the dozen USC players who came to answer questions about the world of Gamecock football.
Its like theyre rock stars, said Jerri Spurrier, the wife of Steve Spurrier, as she summed up the excitement in the room. Its everything for these women.
I hope to get lots of autographs so I can go back home and rub it in with my (two) boys and my husband, said Lisa Cordell, who snapped a string of photographs as selected USC players were introduced for a question-and-answer session.
A morning highlight was several players mothers offering inside looks at their sons away from the field. In the afternoon, the women headed outside for on-field drills and ran through the famed tunnel where USC players enter the field to the sounds of 2001.
But the loudest eruption came in the morning, when about a dozen players entered the room and were showered with cheers and flashing cameras.
And dont forget the wind-up
For Jazz Hawkins and Brandon Gipson, Saturdays baseball game between their alma mater, Benedict College, and rival Claflin University was more than a battle for a better seed in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament.
As the former Benedict players watched from the first-base sidelines in the shadow of Charlie Johnson Stadium off Two Notch Road, Hawkins and Gipson enjoyed not only the game but the venue.
We built it, Hawkins, a one-time right-fielder who played on the Tigers first championship team in 2006, said of the ball field.
Benedict boosters contributed some money, said Gipson, a first-team All-American first baseman. But the sweat and the labor, it was all players and coaches. It just shows our hard work being put to use.
Gipson, who has signed to play professional ball in Arizona, said coaches and a group of former players began carting loads of dirt starting in 2009 and slowly created the diamond that on Saturday saw its first game.
Hawkins, there with his 6-year-old son Jordan, said the new field is more convenient for the team, which has moved around area high school parks to practice and played at Capital City Stadium.
Having a fixed site so close to campus also boosts attendance, Hawkins said as between 50 and 100 fans cheered under a hazy spring sky, even though Claflin won.
We have a crowd, Hawkins said. It used to be, like, just parents.
A foggy start, then up, up and away
Fog delayed the start of the Palmetto Cup, an aerial poker run that brought together 21 pilots at Jim Hamilton-L.B. Owens Airport in downtown Columbia, who then proceeded to fly far in all directions.
But by midmorning, the fly boys of all ages were in the air, off to airports around the state to pick up parts of a toy airplane made of balsa. In the end, they returned to Columbia, put the tiny aircraft together and drew a hand of poker to determine the winner.
The inaugural event raised money for the American Cancer Society in honor of the late Earl Yerrick, who was a flight instructor.
To honor him, to raise money for cancer (treatment), is important to pilots out here because Earl meant a lot to us, participant Manning Frankstone said.
Candee Peacock of West Columbia showed up hoping to hitch a ride in one of the planes. Peacock said she was familiar with motorcycle poker runs, called the airport and was encouraged to come by.
Throughout the day, the airport hosted a display of current and vintage aircraft, some of which buzzed around downtown in the afternoon.
Stepping, 1-2-3, into the past
The 1-2-3 rhythm of the steps from the dance instructor were familiar to Katherine Anderson.
These are the steps I learned from Miss Sloan, the lifelong Columbia resident said at the Seibels House, the historic home that was one of the stops along Historic Columbia Foundations citywide scavenger hunt contest.
Anderson and her contest partner, Craig Childs, chose a quick lesson in swing dancing at one of the 60 downtown contest venues from which they could select their challenges.
Anderson, as many Columbians did in the 1950s and 60s, learned dance at the Miss Sloan school that once operated at the Womens Club near the USC campus.
Anderson and Childs followed instructor Richard Durlachs moves as he quickly took them through the steps then declared them dance certified before they scurried off to their next venue.
A collective salute
American flags, Army jeeps, historic war re-enactment sites and all things military provided a vivid, patriotic backdrop at Finlay Park, where crowds turned out for the 14th annual Celebrate Freedom Festival that honors U.S. service members and veterans.
Its important not to forget your past, said the Rev. Curtis Dennis of Tuscaloosa, Ala., one of several members of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers re-enactment team. You get a newfound respect for our forefathers.
Dennis group was part of the opening ceremonies that featured the 282nd Army Band and Color Guard from Fort Jackson, Dreher High School drama students and a local Scout troop. Children went through a mini basic training, earning dog tags.
Matt Hill of Columbia looked on as his sons Burns, 6, and Grant, 4, climbed on a U.S. Army M151 Series Jeep.
The biggest lesson he hopes his sons will take away is a greater respect for the military and all they do for us.
A runway swagger to end the day
Runaway Runway, the annual fashion show of garments made from recycled material, ran fashionably late. But its better to be that than not fashionable at all.
There was a time when the production, hosted by Columbia Design League, was more about kitsch than design. In its ninth year, the show is now about well-tailored garments and intricate designs where the art yes, some of the pieces rise to such a level needs to be deconstructed to decipher exactly what materials were used.
On Saturday night, about 1,000 people were at the show, held for the second year at Township Auditorium.
More than 60 designs were shown. Here are some of the better looks on the runway:
More so than in years past, there were bursts of colors. Nancy Marine looked like the ultimate coloring book warrior, what with an outfit dominated by crayons and, oddly, glue bottle spouts. Cleome Hubbell, modeling a dress made from cookie boxes and plastic bottle caps, wore a pink wig and her lips were striped with various colors. She was rainbow bright.
Bike and truck tire innertubes, paired with car parts and roof flashing, were fashioned into a sultry mini skirt and skin-bearing top. It was a fierce club outfit that model Avery Hensley confidently wore.
Carolyn Walden walked out in ballet pointe shoes ... that were woven into the dress made by Liesel and Susan Hamilton. The dress, fittingly, looked similar to a tutu. That dress is on point, Patti OFurniture, one of the event's co-hosts said.
Alexis Doktor, the Columbia City Ballet's costume designer, made a gown from satin pointe shoes. The dominant element of her gown, worn by a tattooed Shannon Shuttleworth, was the straps of the shoes.
Jasper magazine designed an outfit from Jasper magazine issues.
One of the more interesting material combinations was probably the deer, chicken, pig and cow bones in the dress made by Martha Brim and Paul Moore. Paired with black leather, it gave a new meaning to the term Southern Gothic.
Molly McNutt, whose asymmetrical and uneven haircut is one of the best hairdos in town, designed a shirt and short set that made her model Adam Siler look like a character on Reno 911. That's some arresting fashion, Patti O'Furniture quipped.
Though she wasn't a model, Anna Redwine, the design leagues president, had a breathtaking look. Her dress featured solar panel bands and blue wire from a hydroelectric plant dumpster dive. Designed by Lani Stringer, it was made from materials that help produce renewable sources of energy. Redwines hair, styled at Tillman Salon, was extended from the side of her head to look as if it were windswept. It worked.
The days of cute at Runaway Runway are apparently over, but there was an aww moment when Felicia Finney pulled a small dog out of her bag. Designer Lenz called it a Barkin Bag, an obvious play on a high-price Hermes bag.
You'd have to know fashion to get it.
Contributing: Dawn Hinshaw, Clif LeBlanc, Mindy Lucas, Bertram Rantin, Otis R. Taylor Jr.