South Carolina

It’s the SC State Fair’s 150th birthday! Here’s all the food, rides and more

Anybody up for a Chili Mac Attack Sundae while waiting in line for the Morbid Mansion?

Those are two new features in the 150th edition of the S.C. State Fair, which begins next Wednesday.

It’s that time of year again.

The fair, themed “Prize-Winning Memories,” runs from Oct. 9 through Oct. 20.

And it features a raft of new attractions — including a free circus.

“This year’s fair will feature many of our traditional favorites with some exciting new offerings while also showcasing the history that has made the fair a family favorite for so many years,” state fair manager Nancy Smith said. “Every county across the state will be represented again during this year’s fair. There really is a little something for everyone. We are very excited to mark this historic occasion.”

Here’s what you can look forward to at the 2019 fair:

To ride

It’s time to have some fun. These are new to the fair lineup of almost 70 rides:

  • Star Dancer: The giant pendulum swings back and forth, gaining momentum with each swing until it loops all the way around 360 degrees — reaching heights of more than 70 feet.

  • Double-Decker Merry Go Round: This new ride is 40 feet round and 34 feet tall, and it features 76 seats in a stunning menagerie of zebras, elephants, rabbits and some spinning bowls for the fearless.

  • Twister: Dual-motion cars on an elevating platform.

  • Morbid Mansion: It’s filled with frights and creepy corners.

Discounted tickets

Available through Oct. 8 at SCStateFair.org and participating Circle K stores. Discount ride and admission tickets also will be on sale from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at the State Fair’s Early Bird Ticket Window at the North Gate on Rosewood Drive.

Ride vouchers: Get unlimited rides when you turn in your ride voucher at any ticket kiosk at the fairgrounds and get a pay-one-price or POP wristband in return. This deal is available every day of the fair.

Buy a ride voucher in advance (through Oct. 8) for $25, during the fair for $30 or for $35 on weekends.

Ride coupons: One for $1.25; 22 for $25; 55 for $60. Kiddie rides require two to three tickets. Other rides require four to six tickets.

Midway express access pass: Skip the ride lines with an express pass. $15.

To eat

You’ve worked up an appetite on the rides, so now it’s time to eat.

There will be more than 90 food stands on the fairgrounds, from classic items like elephant ears and corn dogs to new additions like:

  • Chili Mac Attack Sundae: Mac and cheese on top of yummy French fries topped with delicious chili and jalapenos. Located at DeAnna’s Concessions.

  • Double Dog Corndog: Two dogs battered as one.

  • Bop’s Kettle Corn: Fresh crafted kettle corn, a sweet-and-salty variety of popcorn traditionally made in cast iron kettles, will be served this year in Heritage Village.

  • Poppin Gourmet Burger: This new menu item features gourmet burger patties layered with pepper jack cheese and topped with onion rings and BBQ sauce on a toasted brioche bun. This burger can be found at Carousel Foods.

The Lunch Bunch promotion will be available again this year to visitors who attend between noon and 2 p.m. on weekdays. Pay $10 cash at the gates, get a Lunch Bunch ticket and get a full $10 refund when you return your ticket by 2 p.m.

Some food vendors accept credit and debit cards, but some accept only cash, so come prepared or look for one of several ATMs available at the fairgrounds.

Free circus!

This year, the fair will be offering a circus — free with State Fair admission — with three hour-long shows each day under a 48-foot big top beside the Ellison Building near the South Gate entrance.

“We want to offer our patrons even more ways to enjoy the fair with their families this year, and this circus will combine a mix of the new with nostalgic entertainment that has captivated our state through the years,” Smith said.

Each show will seat up to 1,300 guests and feature traditional and unique circus acts for all ages. Shows begin at 2:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. each day.

Among the acts are:

Globe of Death: Multiple motorcyclists perform loops at high speeds in the tight confines of the steel globe.

America’s Show Camels: Ian Garden and Ryan Henning present a caravan of rare, blue-eyed spotted Dromedary camels.

Wheel of Destiny: Daredevils do aerial stunts and acrobatics while balancing on an exercise wheel connected to a colossal, revolving apparatus.

Trained Dog Show: Pups will perform high energy tricks and antics.

To dance and sing along to

To make way for the free circus, the fair has built the more intimate 1,500-seat Pepsi Place Stage near Nutt Cattle Arena to replace the 5,000-seat grandstand that in the past has featured national acts. The Pepsi Place Stage will feature local and regional acts and all of the shows will be free.

“Our musical acts have long been an anticipated part of the fair, and we wanted to build on this tradition by widening our net to include more home-grown artists,” Smith said.

  • Reggie Sullivan Band: (R&B, Funk, Rock) This Columbia band performs original music influenced by a variety of musical genres. Wednesday, Oct. 9

  • Capital City Shag Club: (Shag) – Capital City Shag Club will spotlight some of its adult shaggers and will give demonstrations to anyone interested in learning South Carolina’s state dance. Junior shaggers Conrad Haas and Briana Taylor will perform a spotlight dance. Thursday, Aug. 10.

  • The Tams: (Beach, R&B) – Based in Atlanta, The Tams have been entertaining audiences for more than 50 years and are known for such hits as “What Kind of Fool” and “Be Young, Be

    Foolish, Be Happy.” Thursday, Oct. 10.
  • Tokyo Joe, Tribute to Tom Petty: (Rock) The formed in 1996 in Columbia and is one of the most recognized in the Southeast. Friday, Oct. 11.

  • Sweet Potato Pie: (Bluegrass, Americana, Gospel, Country) This all-female band from North Carolina has entertained audiences with their harmonies for nearly two decades. Saturday, Oct. 12.

  • Latino Day: Nueva Generación (1 p.m.), Grupo Frenesi Musical (4 p.m.), SINCOPAO Flamenco (6:30 p.m.) and The Latin Caravan: Puerto Rican Latino Band (8 p.m.) Sunday, Oct. 13

  • College Day Battle of the DJs: (Various) – Ten of the state’s top music mixers battle it out to be called the best in South Carolina. Head to the Pepsi Place. 6p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14.
  • The Restoration: The Lexington band offers a blend of folk and rock and is best known for writing conceptual albums about the American South. Tuesday, Oct. 15

  • Ultimate Elvis Tribute: (Rock) – Jason Sikes has entertained audiences for more than 15 years and has appeared on numerous television shows. Sikes produces a variety of looks as he presents his Elvis impressions from various stages of The King’s career. Wednesday, Oct 16

  • Warrick McZeke: (Country) The Loris native achieved breakthrough success with “Miss Absolutely.” Thursday, Oct. 17.

  • J. Michael King and Freddie Vanderford: (Blues) The Palmetto State treasures will present blues styles from different regions of the United States while emphasizing the unique blues sound of South Carolina’s Piedmont region. The duo is a recipient of the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award. Friday, Oct. 18.

  • Brother Oliver: (Folk, Rock) This musical duo of brothers delivers folk and psychedelic rock. Saturday, Oct. 19.

  • Swim in the Wild: (Rock) The four-piece alternative rock band from Charlotte has a sound born in the plains of the Carolinas, with East Coast vibes and flavors of Appalachian folk. Saturday, Oct. 19.

Admission times

Wednesday, Oct. 9: noon to 10 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 10: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 11: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 12: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 13: noon to 10 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 14: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 15: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 16: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 17: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 18: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 19: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 20: noon to 8 p.m.

Rides may open and close later than these times. To see the full schedule, visit scstatefair.org/calendar

How much does it cost to get in?

  • Advance admission (through Tuesday, Oct. 9): $7
  • Seniors (55+): $7
  • At the gates: $10

Parking is $5 per car at the fairgrounds, cash only.

Ticket discounts

Opening day on Wednesday is $1 day. Pay $1 in cash at the gate and gain access to the fairgrounds.

Want more ways to save? Here’s who can get in for free and when:

  • Children under 5
  • Active and retired military and their dependents (children 10 and older must have ID)

  • Those with a valid S.C. Farm Bureau membership card (2 free admissions, Oct. 10)
  • 4-H Alumni (with registration certificate, Oct. 10)
  • 4-H Day (with membership card, Oct. 12)
  • Those wearing 2018 Palmetto Health Walk/Race For Life shirt (Oct. 13)
  • All college students with ID (Oct. 14)
  • Kindergarten Day free — free admission to kindergarten classes and their teachers. Must be scheduled at betsyc@scstatefair.org. (Oct. 15 and Oct. 16)
  • Physics Day: All students wearing the official physics day wristband admitted free from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact Jeff Wilson at the USC Department of Physics at 803-777-4650 for additional information. (Oct. 15)

  • Future Farmers of America members with cards. (Oct. 15)
  • Exceptional Citizens: Those with lifelong disabilities (Oct. 17)
  • USC vs. Florida — Free admission for all football game ticket holders prior to kickoff. (Oct. 19)

  • Scout Day — Boy Scouts & leaders wearing the official Boy Scout uniform or Boy Scout cap and t-shirt admitted free. Girl Scouts & leaders wearing the official Girl Scout tunic, sash, or vest and membership pin admitted free. (Oct 19)

  • American Heritage Girls wearing membership pin. (Oct. 19)

  • Trail Life Day — Trail Life boys wearing official membership pin admitted free. (Oct. 19)

Lunch bunch promotion

Pop in and out of the fair for lunch with a special Lunch Bunch ticket, available each weekday (except Oct. 9) from noon to 2 p.m.

Pay your entry fee with a refundable $10 (cash only) and return to the ticket booth by 2 p.m. to get your cash back. No debit or credit cards will be accepted for this promotion

The COMET

A new FREE weekend shuttle option is now available to get to the fairgrounds — and riders will also receive a complimentary $5 food voucher.

The city of Columbia’s COMET shuttle will run between the South Carolina State Museum at 301 Gervais St. and the fairgrounds each Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the fair.

The shuttle will leave the museum each hour from noon until 10 p.m. with hourly return trips from the fairground from 1 p.m. to midnight except the final Sunday, Oct. 20. That day, the shuttles will leave the museum on the hour from noon to 8 p.m. with hourly returns from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Parking is free at museum and each passenger will receive a $5 food voucher to be used at any food concession stand on the fairgrounds.

Wait, where is the fair again?

The S.C. State Fairgrounds are located at 1200 Rosewood Drive, Columbia.

For more information on all things S.C. State Fair, visit scstatefair.org.

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Jeff Wilkinson has worked for The State for both too long and not long enough. He’s covered politics, city government, history, business, the military, marijuana and the Iraq War. Jeff knows the weird, wonderful and untold secrets of South Carolina. Buy him a shot and he’ll tell you all about them.
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