On all 12 days of this year’s South Carolina State Fair, an America Tribute will ring out at 12 p.m.: The flag will go up, the national anthem will play on the loudspeaker and fairgoers will stop what they’re doing to listen. Part fair, part exhibition space, part celebration of all things South Carolina, this annual festival returns with state favorites and new twists. The theme this year is “Meet Me At the Rocket,” a reference to a 70-foot-tall intermediate ballistic range missile named Columbia that was donated to the city in 1969 and has stood ever since at the fairground’s north entrance. For 50 cents, they’ll make an announcement on your behalf from the rocket: you can shout out your friends, or, more practically, tell your fair buddies where to find you if you’re separated.
While there’s no traditional festival-style music lineup, you can find strange and surprising gems to fill up your day: local celebrities (think news anchors and county sheriffs) will compete in a Boiled Peanut Eating Contest to honor South Carolina’s state snack; Swifty the Swimming Pig will reluctantly jump into a basin of water in front of a cheering crowd; three circus shows will unfold daily, hopefully with no equipment malfunctions this time. Heritage Village, a recreation of a “settler’s town,” has period costumes and glassblowing, and no mention of the Indigenous people the settlers found and terrorized in South Carolina.
Even more curious: you can visit Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibition, a touring exhibit of photographs of the royal princess taken by journalist and royal photographer Anwar Hussein. Entry to the exhibit is included in state fair admission, so if your stomach needs some time to digest before hopping on the Zipper, you can meander through some royal photographs … because that’s somehow a state fair activity.
Speaking of digesting––the South Carolina State Fair is premiering an onslaught of culinary miracles like Fried Salted Caramel Pretzel Brownies, Fried Twinkies on a Stick, a Mexican Sweet Corn Sundae, and a Pumpkin Spice Funnel Cake. DeAnna’s Steak Sundaes is rolling out a brand-new Donut Dog: basically a beef hot-dog nestled into a bun-shaped glazed donut, topped with bacon and drizzled with glaze. This, of course, in addition to the beloved fairground staples: funnel cake, mac & cheese, fried Oreos.
- Around 400,000 people attend each year over the 12 days
- Entry costs $10 per person now, $15 each day-of. Children under 6 get in free. Daily ride vouchers are on sale for $30 now, $38 starting October 11, and allow unlimited rides.
- Check out our Charleston guide if you decide to take a little drive over from Columbia. And here‘s our guide to South Carolina.
What is the closest airport to the South Carolina State Fair?
The fairgrounds are in Columbia, South Carolina, so you can fly into Columbia Metropolitan Airport, eight miles away. If you’re renting a car, you can fly into Charleston International Airport, about 110 miles and a less than a 2 hour drive from Columbia.
Is there parking at the fair?
You can park at the Lexington Medical Center Fair Park, right beside the fairgrounds, for $10 per day, card only. On Saturday, October 14, parking will cost $20 and will be more limited since there’s a big football game: University of South Carolina vs. University of Florida.
What is the format of the FAQ section?
The format of the FAQ section is what you see here, questions followed by answers.
Can I bring a tote bag?
Only small purses are allowed in; all bags larger than a purse must be clear. This is a safety policy modeled on USC’s football game policy.
Which entertainment will be available at the fair?
Aside from food and rides, entertainers will include The Dennis Lee Band, The String Showdown, The One-Man Band featuring Marc Dobson, Safari Sam and Oscar the Awesome Ostrich, hypnotist Ron Diamond, and circus performers Susan Ashton, Chu Chuan-Ho, Drozdov Russian Bar, Laser Man, Renaldo the Clown, and Ringmaster Ian Garden.