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Attendance up over 2012 at the South Carolina State Fair

12/6/2013

By Linda McNatt

Photo courtesy of SC State Fair

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If you think you happened to catch a glimpse of Jack Nicholson or Danny DeVito in the crowds at the South Carolina State Fair, you may not have been wrong.

And, hey, was that Barney Fife over there - the famous deputy who once patrolled the streets of Mayberry? If he wants to show you his bullet, go along with him. It'll make him happy.

And that's exactly what fair officials wanted you and others to do at this spectacular fair that comes to Columbia, S.C. in the fall.

"Find your happy," was the slogan for the fair that played the city from October 9 through October 20. Whether it was the food, the entertainment or the animals, all you really had to worry about at the fair was being happy with whatevePhoto By SC State Fairr you found.

The movie stars and the television deputy were a part of the roving street entertainment featured at the fair this year, and the celebrities were only the beginning. Strolling through the fairgrounds, and possibly munching on a turkey leg, there was also Bandoloni, the one-man band who carried his instruments on his back. He was hauling drums, cymbals, rattles and a tambourine as he strolled through the crowds. There was also Carrie McQueen, the 10-foot southern bell on stilts who juggled and danced her way around the crowds.

And there was Danny the Clown and Farmer Bob and Johnny, the world's funniest tractor. There was Rollo, also on stilts, and The Moogician, who taught onlookers important facts about cows and milk. He also juggled balls of mozzarella cheese and performed magic tricks.

Nearly 473,000 people attended the South Carolina State Fair this year. That's about an additional 20,000 people over last year, said Nancy Smith, assistant manager of the fair since 2007. All of the final numbers still aren't in, said Smith.

"It looks like the numbers are going to be up," she said. "Everything was just about perfect. We had a couple of days with sprinkles, but that's all."

The admission price to the fair was $10 at the gate, $7 if purchased in advance to the fair opening. For the first time this year, all children under the age of five were admitted free.

The South Carolina State Fair has been owned by the South Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical Society since 1869. The charitable organization hands out scholarships to the state's youth and has given out more than $300,000 in recent years.

The fairground encompasses 115 acres. It's located right across from the University of South Carolina football stadium.

The South Carolina Agricultural and Mechanical Society has pledged to keep agriculture alive in the state and promotes state products, like peaches, cotton, tomatoes and collard greens throughout the fair and in the exhibition buildings.

The fair  is supported and controlled by life members. In 1904, the society moved the fair to its present location, on property along Bluff Road in Columbia. In 1912, the society bought the Hippodrome Building, used for the Jamestown Exposition and for the National Republican Convention in Norfolk, Va. The building was moved to Columbia, where it was used for the National Corn Convention in 1912. The Hippodrome Building was destroyed by fire in 1966 and was replaced by the Hampton and Ruff Building. The fair is not state owned nor does it receive appropriations from the state. Over the last decade, the fair has returned more than $1 million to educate South Carolina's youth.

Entertainment on the grandstand stage included The Band Perry, at a price of $30 for the performance. The Band Perry is an American country group made up of siblings Kimberly Perry, Reid Perry and Neil Perry. They signed to Republic Nashville in 2009 and released their debut album in October 2012. Their second album was released in 2013. A single, If I Die Young, reached number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

Corey Smith was a free concert, as was The Temptations. Kirk Franklin was also free. Foreigner cost $15 to attend. Need to Breath and Justin Moore also cost $15.

"We had great grandstand acts this year," Smith said.

Additional entertainment included a Border collie exposition, a donkey and mule show, a petting zoo and a fire safety house.

For your agricultural inquiries, you could "Ask Uncle Ag," and you could also see an American Heritage Village to see a mule-powered sugar cane press, blacksmith demonstrations, and a heritage museum. There was Andes Cosmos with music from Ecuador, bluegrass music, soul line dancing and square dancing clubs from all over South Carolina. There are four square dancing clubs right in Columbia, according to the website for the fair.

The fair was advertised on radio, television, through social media and print media, Smith said.

"We still sell tickets all the way to Charlotte, N.C. and into Georgia," she said.

The midway was handled by North American Midway Entertainment for 2013. NAME is a  company that prides itself in making safety checks daily on all equipment, said Smith. There were plenty of exciting new rides this year, but, again, she said that final numbers aren't yet in. They do, however, expect midway revenues to be up this year.

There were, of course, specials days for special people. Members of the military and retired military were admitted free throughout the fair with proper identification. There was FFA day for members of the Future Farmers of America, 4H day for 4H members. There were kindergarten tours of the fair on Oct. 13.

Senior day was held on October 15. Those 55 years of age and older were admitted for $7. And there were free Ferris Wheel rides for seniors all day.

Thursday, Oct. 16, was "Exceptional Citizens Day." Persons with lifelong disabilities were admitted free and one additional person was admitted free as their attendant.

On Thursday, Oct. 9, college students with proper identification were admitted free.

In mid-October in Columbia, South Carolina, it was time to find your happy. A lot of folks did just that.

S. Carolina State Fair

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