3/16/2017 - Fanning has been behind the scenes at Aiken Trials for 30 years
During the 75th running of the Aiken Trials on Saturday, Mike Fanning will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of his behind-the-scenes involvement with the thoroughbred racing event.
“We couldn’t do it without him,” said Training Track Secretary Nikki Ridenour. “He’s been working with it for so long, and he knows so much about all aspects of it. If you have a question, he’s the guy you go to.”
Fanning and Ridenour are the co-chairs of the Trials Committee.
“On Trials Day, Nikki and I are running around like crazy taking care of things, and between the two of us, we’re probably managing at least 50 people,” Fanning said. “Basically, I’m in charge of the logistics for the event, anything that isn’t horse-related. That includes the parking, the security, getting all the vendors lined up, getting the all the tents put up and getting all the numbers put up for the parking spaces on the rails. It goes like clockwork now because we have a team, but if any special requests come in, like maybe from a new sponsor, we do what we can do to accommodate them.”
Fanning owns AllStar Tents & Events in Graniteville in partnership with his wife, Donna, and his sister, Mary Wolf. He began helping out at the Aiken Trials because he was a member of the Aiken Jaycees.
“That was one of the projects they did every year, and it was fundraiser for them,” Fanning said.
“I did whatever was needed. I parked cars, and I helped lay out the lines for parking. As the years went on, I learned more and more about it.”
After the Jaycees’ sponsorship of the Trials ended, “the Training Track people approached me and asked if I would help them run the event and keep things rolling,” Fanning said.
Before the Training Track had an electronic renewal system for reserved parking spaces, Fanning and his wife used be in charge of the process and did all the work by hand in their home.
“For about 10 years, we handled everything,” he said. “We would start putting all the renewal packages together during the Christmas holidays.”
For Fanning, weather has always provided the biggest challenges.
“It’s something we have to contend with, and most of the craziness is related to it,” he said. “We have to be prepared at all times. If there is lightning, we have to make adjustments. If there is a lot of rain, it gets sloppy in the infield and we have to pull out the vehicles that get stuck.”
In 1993, the Aiken Trials were postponed and moved from Saturday to the following Wednesday because of snow and ice.
“For safety reasons, it was the right call,” Fanning said.
Most of his memories of the Trials, however, are pleasant.
“It’s a great event with a lot of history and nostalgia,” Fanning said. “There are a lot of good people in community associated with it that I’ve gotten to know, and there is a lot of camaraderie. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s fun.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C, she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill