'Hunt Week' gives economic boost to Aiken County businesses

Fox hunting brings tourist dollars to Aiken County. (February 3, 2011 / WRDW-TV)

Fox hunting brings tourist dollars to Aiken County. (February 3, 2011 / WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, February 3, 2011

AIKEN CTY, S.C.---"Hunt Week" is bringing hundreds of people from all across the country to Aiken County. More people means more money. This ancient sport is giving the local economy a big boost.

For the last two years, some hotels and restaurants have been hit hard by the economy. But now some say the horse industry is recovering, and events like fox hunting bring in lots of money.

Fox hunting season is at its high point ,and that means hundreds of people are in Aiken for this week's events. Hotel Aiken is filling up fast, and those who work there are busy. Mary Salley is a housekeeper there. She tells News 12 she loves it when the tourists come to town.

"They're in and out," she said. "They come for lunchtime. The more they come, the more work for us. So we're getting better and working harder."

This year there are a record number of riders who've traveled to Aiken, which is good news for people like Mary, who make more money for her two kids during these events. "What makes me happy? When I get a tip," she said.

Kishan Shah owns Hotel Aiken. He says he's seen a 30% increase in business from last year. "It's a dramatic impact. It goes down to local economy. Heads on beds means they have to eat, drink and invariably shop as well."

A lot of businesses benefit. Workers at Aiken Saddlery & Supply get a lot more people coming in around this time. "(Riders) forget their boots or saddles...things they need when they're here," said Norma Craven. Norma says the business does well year-round because horse owners will always take good care of their horses. But during this time, they're doing even better.

As long as people keep coming, Mary is happy and still working hard. Even though she's done for the day and out of uniform, Mary inspects the rooms one last time. It's good to be busy--not just for herself but for her family. "The more people come in...the more I can support my kids better," she said.

Hunt Week lasts for ten days and will end later next week.


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