From trucks to bagpipes: Midlands events draw crowds (+ photos, snapshots and video)

dhinshaw@thestate.comApril 5, 2014 

— People went out of doors in droves on Saturday, the first sunny, warm Saturday of spring in the Midlands.

From pulling a firetruck to celebrating Celtic heritage, many were enjoying the day at one of the area’s many festivals and charity events.

Firetruck pull

Teams competed at a Columbia fitness center Saturday to see who could pull a 40,000-pound firetruck, lashed to a rope, across the finish line the fastest.

The Curing Kids Cancer event raised money for pediatric cancer research.

Among the 10-to-12-person teams was the all-woman “Suck It Cancer” team.

“I’ve had five people in the last month in my family or close friends die of cancer, so cancer really does suck,” team member Tara Ruff said.

A half-dozen young people in treatment watched from the sidelines. Each team was “pulling” for one of them.

Organizers expected to raise $6,000 to $10,000 for the children’s hospital at Palmetto Health Richland.

Curing Kids Cancer was started by a couple, formerly from Columbia, who lost their 9-year-old son to cancer. While they live in Atlanta now, Clay and Grainne Owen still have family in Columbia.

“It’s such a cool idea to pull this massive firetruck,” Clay Owen said.

The inaugural event included live music and food.

Katie Kendall, 15, was one of a half-dozen young people in treatment who attended. “They want to help out, and that’s really cool. It’s fun to be here.”


Trucks were also rampant at the South Carolina State Farmers Market in West Columbia.

Every few seconds, a loud honk or siren went off as kids and adults of all ages were getting up close to all kinds of vehicles. Old military automobiles, farm equipment, a NASCAR simulator, a bulldozer and a dump truck were all a part of the Columbia Junior League’s Touch-A-Truck fundraiser.

“It’s completely hands-on, and we want to give these children a chance to meet the people who build, serve and protect here in the Midlands,” said Connelly-Anne Ragley, co-chair of the event.

Ryan Flynt, a crane operator, lifted kids into the cockpit of a crane and tilted it back.

He said watching the kids was priceless.

“Reminds me of me when I was a kid – which I still am,” Flynt said.

Brothers Caleb Merritt, 5, and Ezra Merritt, 2, took turns behind the wheel.

“They love trucks,” their mom, Laurie Merritt, said. They like any kind of construction vehicles or firetrucks, she said.

Tartan Day South

Kilts, birds of prey, bagpipes and even a lady dressed as a fairy could be found at the Tartan Day South Highland Games & Celtic Festival.

The celebration of Celtic, mostly Scotch-Irish, culture continues at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Historic Columbia Speedway in Cayce.

On Saturday, two members of the Society for Creative Anachronism fought in a medieval style of martial arts in a corner of the festival grounds.

“We’ll beat the ever living crud out of each other,” said Steve Gillam, of Pickens, who goes by Olaf Stammkopf in the society.

Gillam had just finished fighting his friend, Lee Loftis, of Greenville.

Loftis had a small cut on his head from his snug helmet.

“It has to be tight so it doesn’t rattle your brains,” he said.

Loftis said it was his first big fight.

“I definitely need a few more practices,” he said.

But he said being able to improve and having something to work toward is part of the fun, he said.

After friends get done fighting each other, they’ll go have a beer, Gillam said.

And it’s not just about fighting, Loftis pointed out.

“There’s an art and a science to it,” he said.

Open Studios

As Amy Mattison of West Columbia toured artists’ studios with her folks on Saturday, she found herself enjoying the venues as much as the art.

“I’m so glad I came in here,” she said after visiting the Wiggins & Fiveash Studio in the historic Arcade on Columbia’s Main Street. “It’s a stunning building. Must be fabulous to work here.”

Mattison said she was impressed by the variety of art on the Open Studios tour, which she said provided an opportunity to “meet wonderful people, see talent.”

Artists Lindsay Wiggins and Nathan Fiveash are among a dozen artists who work out of the Arcade building. They’ve been there for over a year, and have seen more traffic through the studio lately, Fiveash said.

Wiggins was working on a surrealist painting as people stopped in Saturday.

The Open Studios tour, which features 46 Midlands artists, continues Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. For a list of participating artists, see

Steve Spurrier Ladies Football Clinic

A few hundred women gathered at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia on Saturday morning to watch the Gamecocks scrimmage during Coach Steve Spurrier’s annual Ladies Clinic.

One of the littlest ladies was 2½ -year-old Lucy Hancock.

Lucy had on a black and garnet USC cotton cheerleading outfit on with washable princess tattoos on the back of her hands. She hung onto the railing outside of The Zone and watched the football players practice.

“She loves to run,” her mom, Karla Hancock, of Greenville said in anticipation of taking to the field themselves.

Their friends and family have season tickets, and they go whenever there are extras.

Last season during the Coastal Carolina game, Lucy was cheering during a fight song and her face appeared on the Jumbotron, her mom said.

Bark to the Park

Dog groomer Nicole Smith went to Columbia’s Finlay Park on Saturday – along with hundreds of other dog lovers and hundreds of dogs – to support Pawmetto Lifeline.

She and an employee were scoping out all the different breeds.

They even saw a Newfoundland and a Saint Bernard, each of which Smith said are “not a real common dog to have down South” because of their heavy coats.

There were dogs with ribbons and bows, dogs with their fur dyed pink and regular dogs wearing nothing at all.

The sixth annual Bark to the Park attracted close to 2,000 walkers and at least 500 dogs – “the most ever,” said CEO Denise Wilkinson.

And it raised in excess of $135,000 for the Midlands’ two-county animal shelter.

Smith and her dog, Winter, were attracting a lot of attention. The standard poodle’s top knot and poms were dyed bright pink, and she had pink stickers on her nails.

Smith said she does her dog’s hair every five to six weeks.

She also has three shelter dogs at home, plus a Chihuahua she adopted after its owner, a client, passed away.

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