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Despite Traffic Troubles, Coastal Carolina Fair on Track for Bright Future
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The Coastal Carolina Fair took place from Oct.25 through Nov.4, at Ladson Exchange Park in South Carolina. Gary Leonard, Chairman of Media and Public Relations for the fair, says that attendance was slightly down this year due to two of the Fridays featuring heavy rains. However, turnout was not disappointing. More than 233,000 people came out for the 2018 fair, compared to 254,000 visitors in 2017, which was a record-breaking year. He says the annual event continues to gain popularity, especially with more people moving to the area.

“It is a new experience for many of the people moving to the greater Charleston area,” Leonard shares. “They are amazed by the variety and quality of entertainment, commercial and agricultural exhibits available, and exposure to local talents in arts and crafts, photography, visual arts and the flower show.”


Challenges with the Crowds

Though people flocking out to the fair is, of course, a good thing, a huge challenge over the last several years has been how to manage the bumper-to-bumper traffic that has ensued. This year was no exception.

According to an article on Charleston's The post and Courier, a major factor contributing to the traffic trouble is massive growth in the area. Since 2000, the Charleston metro area has been said to have added more than 210,000 residents.

Visitors have recently been forced to wait in long lines when traveling to the fairgrounds – some fairgoers claiming for this year's event they had to wait hours in the traffic as they were backed up bumper-to-bumper along the interstate and the Ladson exit. The final Saturday of the fair was said to have been especially congested, due to the fact that a majority of fair guests waited until that day to attend. Limited parking space continues to be an issue, with only 10,000 spots available on the fair grounds.

Fair officials have been brainstorming and working on ways to remedy the situation. An extra day was added to the event to help alleviate traffic problems. Fair hours also have been extended and several weekday promotional events have been added, with hopes to draw people out during the week and  spread out the numbers of visitors attending on a given day. There has definitely been a push to get people to come out during the week instead of flocking to the grounds on the weekend, which is when most of the issues arise.

“We try to decrease traffic on the weekend with ticket promotions from Monday through Thursday,” Leonard shares. “This has helped, but traffic is still a problem.” 

Another possible solution to the issue is planning an additional parking lot, which would help considerably with traffic flow problems.

Admission for 2018 

Admission to the 2018 Coastal Carolina Fair was $12 for adults and $7 for children under the age of 13. Children ages 5 and under were admitted for free.

 
There were several days during the week that featured special deals. These included Military Appreciation Day, where veterans and one guest received free admission to the fair; and Senior Day, which took place on Halloween. Senior citizens ages 55 and older received $5 gate admission and had the opportunity to access to special senior events that took place earlier in the day.

 
Entertainment and Food

Concerts were included in the price of admission. Musical entertainment for this year included Diamond Rio, Walker Hayes, JoDee Messina, Lalo Mora, Building 429, Resurrection, Asia featuring John Paye, Rodney Atkins, High Valley, Brady Smith Band and Saluda Shoats.

New ground entertainment acts were Brunson Blaszak's Royal Bengal Tigers and Scott's World of Magic. Fair favorites returning for 2018 included an interactive butterfly garden, which was said to be very popular with all age groups, and the bull and bronco riders.

“The professional bull and bronco riders are a treat for our local population,” Leonard adds.

There was also a children’s area with kiddie rides, a flower show, goat show, petting zoo, art competitions, Carolina dancers and a pageant.

Midway entertainment was provided by Amusements of America. There were 66 rides in total and three featured rides were the Super Nova, Free Fall and Nemesis 360. All were said to be very popular with fairgoers. 

Ride wristbands could be purchased online for $20, and at the gate for $25, during Friday and Saturday of the fair.
 
Fair visitors also had the opportunity to choose from 73 food vendors. New concotions on the menu included a variety of options of mac and cheese, deep-fried Pina Coladas, deep-fried meatballs and Cheerwine funnel cake.

 
Focusing on the Future

“We have added an additional building to our fair grounds to allow us to offer additional services to our community to host conventions, trade shows, larger catered events, weddings, receptions and corporate events,” Leonard says, when asked what goals the fair board has for the future.

He adds that the fair will continue to take advantage of technology for promotion, utilizing social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The fair is hosted by The Exchange Club of Charleston. Since 2003, more than $9 million has been donated toward charities such as senior citizen centers, Habitat for Humanity and Meals on Wheels.

“After our expenses are taken care of, we award grants to non-profits to meet the basic needs of our community,” Leonard says. “During the recession, we added an additional day, and also added hours on the weekend. This allowed us to maintain our level of community support, and also to increase it for the last several years.”
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