The South Carolina State Fair opened its gates as scheduled Wednesday at noon, after concerns last week that the flooding in Columbia might postpone it. The fair has new facilities, a new roller coaster, new food options, and a new $5 charge for parking.
Even though the flooding didn’t postpone the fair’s opening, concession stands did have to use bottled water on opening day because of a boil water advisory for parts of Columbia. The advisory was lifted late Wednesday afternoon.
After years of being able to park for free, now you’ll have to pay. State Fair assistant manager Nancy Smith says, “We are charging $5 in the parking lot. That’s cash only, and that is in the State Fair lots entering off of Gates 6 and 10. And this year, our net proceeds from the parking charge will go to benefit the flood relief victims.”
Something else that’s new this year is the North entrance on Rosewood Drive. It’s much larger, giving pedestrians more room, and has twice as many ticket booths as before.
Just inside that North gate, on the left as you come in, the Hampton Building is gone. Smith says the Fair’s long-term plan was to get rid of that building, which had no air conditioning. It’s now green space that, during the fair, is occupied by a new robotic dinosaur exhibit.
There’s a new, 36,000 square foot building, the Goodman Building, on the other end of the fairgrounds. It houses shopping. Having that new building allows all of the agricultural exhibits to be housed in one building, while all the photography, art, and flower exhibits are together in another.
The fair also has a new roller coaster, “The Blitzer.” And the iconic rocket on the fairgrounds has been raised 12 feet and has a new base.
There are also some new food choices. Smith says, “The first one that pops out is the Southern Belle burger. That is a burger with pimento cheese and a fried green tomato, and maybe a little egg on top of that. We also have some sriracha ice cream, hot-fire ice cream. And we have a bacon cinnamon roll as well.”
The State Fair runs through Oct. 25th. Admission is $10, $7 for seniors 55 and older, and children 5 and under get in free with a paying adult. There’s also free entry for retired, active military and dependents with ID. All youths under 18 are required to be accompanied by a parent 21 and older to be admitted after 6 p.m.