One of South Carolina’s largest traditions, the South Carolina State Fair can be experienced from the comfort of the car this year.
The annual South Carolina State Fair, a free, two-part drive-thru event this year to accommodate COVID-19 regulations, will be held on Oct. 20 and 21 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds.
Guests should expect to experience the fair they know and love. This year, they will get to see “a little bit of everything [the] fair has to offer,” fair general manager Nancy Smith said.
The drive-thru process takes about 20 minutes and features agriculture, arts and crafts, flowers, carnival music and livestock from the safety of the attendees' cars.
Agriculture is the root of the fair, according to Smith. Smith said this year’s agriculture might look different, as farmers and gardeners show off their hard work non-competitively.
"That’s been a real heartwarming experience," Smith said. “To know that people really care enough about their fair even when it’s not in competition."
Fair staff did not forget about funnel cakes and corn dogs, either.
Guests have the opportunity to visit the Lexington Medical Center Fair Park for their fair food favorites. There will be six lines of food trucks, each with the same foods, and runners will take and deliver guests’ orders.
The food portion of the fair has been extended from Oct. 20 through Oct. 24, with the same hours as the drive-thru fair. Attendees have the option to pick up their food and take it home or bring it with them as they drive-through the fair exhibits.
“Folks, even though in a very different way, from the safety of their own cars, can drive-through the fairgrounds and see a little snippet of many of the things that you would see if you were able to actually come to your fair,” Smith said.
South Carolina residents do not have to let go of this 151-year tradition.
The fair’s director of human resources and marketing, Kathy Allen, said it has felt really good to be able to offer the community the fair for free this year.
The decision to make the fair a drive-thru was not an easy one, as the staff researched ways to carry on the fair and keep the people of South Carolina pleased despite the pandemic’s obstacles.
“Safety is always our number one concern,” Smith said.
Smith said the free fair is a way to give back to the community because “people are now more than ever looking for something positive to be involved in.”
Ryan Hagy is an employee at DeAnna’s Steak Sundaes, a fair food favorite. Although DeAnna’s Steak Sundaes will not be attending the fair this year due to a minimizing of vendors to support social distancing measures, Hagy said he knows normalcy was not an option.
”We have to remember that 2020 has not been a normal year for anyone, so to think that the fair would have gone on as normal, I think, is kind of not practical,” Hagy said.
Although the fair is set up differently, the heart of the fair remains.
“The fair is about having fun. It's about seeing friends. It's about eating food that only comes around once a year,” Hagy said.
The fair is about the “pride that people have in their state and all of the wonderful things that the people from South Carolina can do,” according to Smith.
Guests can even listen to the music groups that usually perform at the fair.
"We just got some of their best hits and put them on a Spotify playlist, so you could play that while you’re driving through," Allen said.
The South Carolina State Fair is more than an October event. As a nonprofit 501c3, it is dedicated to the education of the state’s youth. The fair has donated more than $4 million in scholarship money to South Carolina students who attend in-state schools or universities since 1997. The Ride of Your Life Scholarship offers 50 students a total of $300,000 every year.
For your fair food favorites, enter Lexington Medical Center Fair Park through Gate 6 on George Rogers Boulevard.