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Prize-winning memories. The South Carolina State Fair Celebrates 150 Years this October.
We know: it’s the day that your parents picked you up early from school and drove you downtown to spend the day riding all of the rides that you were tall enough for, eating delicious fried food, and walking through the art exhibit to find your artwork on display. Possibly it’s the Friday night that you spent conquering your fear of heights with your friends as you rode across the fairgrounds on the chair lift or took in the view of downtown Columbia from the top of the Ferris wheel. Perhaps it’s even the memory of hearing your name called over the PA system with a request to meet your party at “the rocket.” Could it be the day that you experienced it all for the first time again through the eyes of your child?
If you’ve lived in Columbia during the fall at any point over the last century and a half, we can guarantee that you have a nostalgic moment or two that involves the South Carolina State Fair. The Fair has been creating lasting memories for fairgoers since 1869, and they’re celebrating in a big way this year for the 150th Anniversary this October 9th through October 20th. Did you know? One hundred and fifty years ago, when the State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina was formed with the purpose of sponsoring a state fair, the fair was located on Elmwood Avenue. It outgrew its original location just after the turn of the 20th century and was relocated across town to Rosewood Drive. The society was able to expand the activities and amenities in the newer, larger location to set the groundwork for new attractions, large exhibits, and bigger crowds. For nearly half a century, the State Fair was home to “Big Thursday”—the annual football contest between the Gamecocks and the Tigers. But before the rivalry even reached its heyday, the most popular day of Fair Week was Thursday, when the State Ball was held each year. Portions of the fair were even once held in other areas around downtown Columbia. Until the early 1900s, many of the rides and midway games were located on Main Street between Elmwood Avenue and Gervais Street each night after the fairgrounds closed for the day. The State Fair has a rich history that has been thoroughly documented by Rodger E. Stroup in his new book, Meet Me at the Rocket, which is set to be published this September.
When the fair rolls into town this year, it will bring along with it all of your favorite traditional rides, midway games, and prize-winning art, food, and livestock along with new exciting rides. As part of the 150th Anniversary Fair celebration, the Circus will be coming to town! There will be three live, hour-long circus performances a day inside a new white, red, and green big top tent from the famed Italian Bellucci Circus. The circus, free with fair admission, will feature high-wire artists, daredevil motorists, duo aerial silks, and more that will leave guests dazzled and amazed. The South Carolina State Fair has changed throughout the years. From the days of daily parades and horse racing to funnel cakes and rollercoasters, the fair has proved to be a tradition that can withstand the test of time. The one thing that remains the same? The incredible memories that you can make each fall with your friends and family when the fair comes to town!
Plan Your Visit
October 9 -20, 2019
General Admission Tickets: $7 in advance, $10 during the Fair
Military: Free for all active duty and retired military and their dependents with proper ID
0-5 years old: Free
Seniors 55+: $7 during the fair