It’s that time of year again. Sweaters are (maybe, slowly) starting to make their way out of storage. Pumpkin spice everything can be found around every corner. The first leaves are beginning to turn beautiful shades of red and orange. And the smells of fried dough and cotton candy and the sounds of children shrieking in delight are wafting through the autumn air. It’s time for the South Carolina State Fair to make it’s appearance October 9 – 20!
The fair is a treasured fall tradition in the Midlands, and something our family looks forward to every year. Here’s an insider scoop of new must-see, do and eat at the fair, and how to make the most of your time with kids in tow!
1. It’s the 150th Celebration!
The South Carolina State Fair celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. Organized in 1869, the State Fair has continued to keep its central agricultural roots alive while offering fun, food, education and a variety of competitive exhibits.
This year’s State Fair is themed “Prize-Winning Memories” and will complement a long list of traditional favorites with several special offerings in celebration of the 150th anniversary. Special offerings being held this year in celebration of the anniversary include:
- The United States Postal Service will be offering a special pictorial cancellation stamp. The USPS will be selling these stamped envelopes at the Main Street Entertainment and Food Court Friday, October 11 from 4 – 8 p.m. and Wednesday, October 16 from noon – 6 p.m. and the stamps will be available at the new General Store located near the South Gate Information Center during regular hours.
- A published history of the fair, “Meet Me at the Rocket” by historian Rodger Stroup, and a display of interesting fair memorabilia in the Cantey Building. Rodger Stroup will be in the Cantey building every day selling/autographing the book. Cost of book is $29.95. Great holiday gift!
- A State Fair “Prize-Winning Memories” wall in the Ellison Building for guests to share their favorite fair memories. Send a favorite SC State Fair photo to [email protected] and your photos will be included on the memory wall.
- A special exhibit on “The Food We Celebrate” presented by the S.C. State Museum and The S.C. Humanities Council in the Ellison Building.
- Guests will be invited to enjoy 150th anniversary cake as the gates open Oct. 9, while supplies last near the South Gate entrance.
- This year’s Sandscapes features a 150th anniversary-themed display as the talented sand artists transform 75 tons of sand into a creative anniversary wonder — featured daily in the Goodman Building.
- The iconic Rocket will be decorated in celebration of its 50th birthday (originally erected on the State Fairgrounds in 1969). Join us in singing “Happy Birthday” to the Rocket each afternoon around 5:45 p.m., and watch it light up!
2. 150 Celebration Wheel
To celebrate South Carolina State Fair’s remarkable 150th anniversary, North American Midway Entertainment is debuting for the first time in North America its new 150 foot high “150 Celebration Wheel.” The ride includes 36 temperature-regulated gondolas, which creates an encounter that you will want to experience over and over again. Each gondola carries 6 people on a luxurious journey to new heights never seen before at the South Carolina State Fair. The Celebration Wheel is a must-do event for you and the whole family!
Buy early and save up to 40%. Purchase your Celebration Wheel pass for $5 per person, or $20 for five passes, NOW through October 8. Passes will also be available on site during the run of the fair. (POP, Pay One Price, and fast pass not included). Once the fair begins on October 9 it will cost 8 ride tickets for this 150 Celebration Wheel which is a little over $8 to ride.
3. CIRCUS at the Fair!
The circus is in town for the South Carolina State Fair’s 150th anniversary. The 2019 State Fair will feature a free daily “CIRCUS at the Fair” with three hour-long shows each day under a 48-foot big top beside the Ellison Building near the South Gate entrance. Each show will present riveting entertainment for up to 1,300 guests from a renowned lineup of traditional and unique circus acts for all ages. Shows begin at 2:30 p.m., 5:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. each day and are FREE!
Here are the highlights of this year’s “CIRCUS at the Fair.”
4. New Rides!
With nearly 70 rides, this year’s fair is sure to create prize-winning memories. From skyhigh thrillers to family-friendly fun – rides from North American Midway Entertainment will feature eight new rides and five rides returning to the State Fair after a hiatus. One is for adults only. Five are mainly for kids. Two kids and parents will love together. Here is a link to the children’s height requirements.
Must Do :: Be sure to check out the Star Dancer (bottom right). It will light up extravagantly at night. And the double-decker merry go round (top) is a fantastic photo opportunity – it’s gorgeous!
5. New Food!
With more than 90 food stands – guests will find everything from innovative indulgences (fried cookie dough and donut burgers), to State Fair staples (Fiske fries and foot- long corn dogs), to lighter fare (the ultimate Greek salad) — luring all types of food lovers from across the state. Some new food items are described below.
6. Weekend Shuttle Options (includes $5 food voucher!)
Visitors to this year’s State Fair will have a new weekend shuttle option for getting to the fairgrounds and can receive a complimentary $5 food voucher in the process. The COMET transit system in Columbia will provide shuttle service between the South Carolina State Museum at 301 Gervais St. and the fairgrounds each Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the fair.
The shuttles will leave the museum each hour from noon until 10 p.m. with hourly return trips from the fair from 1 p.m. to midnight each weekend day except the final Sunday (Oct. 20). On the final Sunday (Oct. 20), the shuttles will leave the museum on the hour from noon to 8 p.m. with hourly return trips from the fair from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Parking is free at the South Carolina
State Museum, and each passenger will receive a $5 food voucher to be used at any food concession stand on the fairgrounds.
7. Must-See Activities For Kids!
- Wednesday, October 9 is $1 admission day. The gates open at noon and there will be birthday cake while supplies last at the South Gate in hour of the South Carolina State Fair’s 150 birthday.
- Saturday, October 12 at 2 p.m. in the Ellison building there will be a scarecrow contest. It is too late to enter the contest, but will be fun to see the scarecrows!
- Sunday, October 13 at 1 p.m. in the Swine Sheep and Goat arena (map here) there is a pig costume contest that is laugh out loud funny. This is a competition for kids to dress up pigs. Yep. Dress them in costumes and compete.
- Sunday, October 13 at 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. in the Moore Building is a Pumpkin Contest. It’s fun to see the pumpkins.
- October 15 – 16 (Tuesday and Wednesday) from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m and October 19 (Saturday) from noon – 4 p.m., Storytelling from a local children’s book author Amber Watson. She will be in the Cantey Building with her children’s book: “The Adventures of Ollie and Tate.” This will be interactive.
- Wednesday, October 16 at 11 a.m., Killian Elementary School will be at the South Gate stage with their drumline.
- Thursday, October 17 at 6:30 pm in the Cantey Building, the SC Philharmonic will have several musicians there ready for anyone in the crowd to volunteer to conduct their orchestra. Adults and children take turns and the orchestra is impressive as they play to the hand gestures of the audience conductors. It is hilarious to watch.
- Sunday, October 20 at 4 p.m. is the Children’s Lego contest. It is impressive.
- Everyday, check out the world’s largest tire! It’s massive!
Looking for a more detailed list? Click here for calendar.
8. All Concerts are FREE and from LOCAL and REGIONAL ARTISTS at the new Pepsi Place Stage
You ask, they delivered! Throughout the years the fair received feedback from the public for more local performers. This year’s State Fair will feature free daily concerts showcasing local and regional artists in a new 1,500-seat Pepsi Place Stage (which seats 1500-1800 people) near Nutt Cattle Arena. Check out this year’s lineup.
9. Ticketing Details and Discounts
Discount ride vouchers and admission tickets may be purchased through Oct. 8 at participating Circle K Stores, online at scstatefair.org, and at the State Fair’s early bird ticket window, open weekdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the North Gate on Rosewood Drive. Additionally, South Carolina State Fair’s roving ticket booth, FRED, will be at dozens of locations until Oct. 8. Find FRED’s schedule at http://www.findfred.org.
Through Oct. 8, at any of the above locations, advance admission tickets are $7 for ages 6-54. Tickets are $10 during the S.C. State Fair. Children 5 years old or younger receive free admission, as do any active or retired military and their dependents with proper ID. Tickets for adults 55 years old or older are $7 and are available at the fairgrounds. Discount ride vouchers may be purchased through Oct. 8 for $25.