Skip Shelton knows how to throw a birthday party.
The Greenwood artist and American flyer turned 90 March 12 and threw himself a birthday bash at the Arts Center of Greenwood that rivaled the one he had for himself when he turned 89.
Friends, family and acquaintances packed the Mays Reception Hall to standing room only Tuesday night to watch Shelton usher in his 90th year as only Shelton could.
Shelton was comfortable leading his birthday celebration that featured live performances, lip-synched songs, jokes, a presentation from the South Carolina Senate and birthday cake and snacks. Most of all, throughout the evening, Shelton continued to flash his contagious smile all the while wearing his signature sunglasses.
How contagious? He wasn't the only one smiling in the room. Everyone flashed their pearly whites more than a couple of times and let out some big laughs during the entertainment portion of the evening.
Shelton orchestrated the show with the expertise of a big band leader. He shuffled in and out performers with such precision his buddy Glenn Miller would have been proud.
And as only Shelton can, he got people to do things they might not normally get up and do in public.
Shelton, who takes one baby aspirin each day, directed the band he assembled that was made up of his art students. He brought on John and Karen Johnson and Sandy McCord to sing into paint brushes, instead of microphones, to piped in music.
State Sen. Floyd Nicholson took centerstage to lip sync to Louie Armstrong's "Hello Dolly." The senator also presented Shelton with a proclamation for his birthday.
Cheryl Baer, Jennifer Smith and Sarah Morris did sing live. Baer sang several Patsy Cline tunes, including one of Shelton's favorites, "Crazy." Smith and Morris did "Amazing Grace."
Arts Center executive director Ann Craig made her piano debut during Shelton's birthday party. She has taken lessons from Marianne Lenti. This was the second year Craig performed. Last year, she sang in French.
Even Sarah Palin, aka Taylor Wilson Tucker, made an appearance.
Shelton, who has his art studio at the Arts Center, is a true American icon.
He lives and breathes all that is good about this country and isn't afraid to show his true colors.
During his party, Shelton, a decorated veteran, honored members of the five branches of the armed forces - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard - by playing their songs and asking veterans to stand when their tune was played.
Before leaving the Arts Center Tuesday night, I stopped to talk with Shelton one last time.
While shaking his hand, Shelton said he hoped to see me when he celebrates his 100th birthday. I took that as an invitation to the shindig.
Shelton often reminds people to "remember not to die until you are dead." That's how he lives his life.
Skip, I have no doubt you'll be around to celebrate 100, and if you're going to be at your party 10 years from now, I plan to be there, too.
Again, Happy Birthday, Skip.
Sitarz can be reached at 943-2529 or via email at email@example.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.