The Alaska State Fairs motto is Fun matters! Here in South Carolina, our state fairs theme is Find Your Happy.
Im lucky enough to have found happiness and fun at both fairs.
This summer, I spent two months in Alaska helping the online team at the Anchorage Daily News, another McClatchy newspaper.
While I was there, the 49th state hosted quite an impressive fair, complete with a moose-calling contest, reindeer petting, a giant 1,182-pound pumpkin and Bill Cosby.
So when the South Carolina State Fair opened last week in Columbia, I hit the road down Interstate 77 to see how the Palmetto States food, fun and festivities stack up to those in the Last Frontier.
I found that S.C.s fair had many more rides and games in the midway, but its missing the charm and uniqueness thats incorporated into nearly every element of Alaskas fair.
The S.C. fair resembles a pop-up carnival from Anytown USA, whereas Alaskas fair is more down home and showcases the states beauty.
Most of the vendors in Alaska sell food that celebrates the local culture and cuisine caribou steak sandwiches, fresh Alaskan oysters, crab bisque and rhubarb lemonade.
None of the food at the S.C. fair screams Carolina, unless you count Twisted Burgers redneck burger, topped with bologna, bacon, baked beans and fries. (Which, by the way was surprisingly delicious!)
If youre looking for typical fair food cotton candy, elephant ears, jumbo corn dogs, turkey legs, gyros, fried Oreos and more then the S.C. fair wont disappoint.
While food vendors might miss out on the flavor of South Carolina, the agricultural exhibits dont.
The S.C. fair has everything from Christmas trees straight out of Yorks Penland Farms to award-winning peanuts to piles of sweet potatoes.
There were twice as many critters and birds on display in Columbia than in Alaska, including a Carolina Gamecock sitting on a miniature touchdown stand. The floral displays were beautiful and the crafts were impressive.
Sure, South Carolinas blue-ribbon great pumpkin weighing in at 450 pounds paled in comparison to its Alaskan counterpart. But everythings bigger in Alaska, except perhaps tomatoes.
As expected, there were many similarities between the fairs.
Both bring in big names for concerts and entertainment. Both have cow-milking demonstrations, petting zoos, pony rides and pig racing. Both have special attractions although, surprisingly, the bear show is in South Carolina, not Alaska.
The S.C. fair has the American Heritage Village and sand sculptures, while Alaska has a lumberjack show and beer garden. (Note: South Carolinas fair is alcohol-free.)
Alaska has Cabbage Fairies women dressed in green cabbage costumes who are about as popular up there as cotton candy, while the Barney Fife impersonator and Farmer Bob are hits at the S.C. fair.
Alaska had Eskimo games and native dancing. South Carolina has line dancers, high steppers and Bills Pickin Parlor.
Alaska has the Elks Club Rat Race the one time of the year when folks gather to cheer on rodents and South Carolina has, well, nothing compares. The rat race is just too funny!
Alaskas fair is nestled in the valley of the beautiful Chugach Mountains while S.C.s fair sits between Williams Brice Stadium and downtown Columbia. Alaska gets my vote for best view from the Ferris wheel (sorry, Gamecock fans!).
Both fairs are unique in their own way, although South Carolina has one slight advantage better weather in the warm, sunny South. It rained almost every day of the Alaska State Fair.
I much prefer flip-flops and T-shirts to umbrellas and jackets.
WANT TO GO?
The South Carolina State Fair is open through Sunday at the State Fairgrounds, across from Williams Brice Stadium in Columbia. For more information, including a full schedule and hours, go to scstatefair.org.
Shannon Greene is the online editor of heraldonline.com.