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South Carolina State Fair now underway

The event, which went to a drive-through only version last year, returns in full.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina State Fair is back in Columbia, one year after the pandemic forced it to become a drive-through only event.

The 152nd edition of the annual tradition kicked off at noon on Wednesday, and within minutes, thousands of people streamed through the turnstiles to enjoy the rides, food, and fun. The event runs through October 24. For full information on times and tickets, visit the South Carolina State Fair website.

Last year's in-person event was not held and instead a drive-through version was done, where people could take their cars and buy some fair food, but couldn't access the rides. One fairgoer said, "I'm just excited we can come back to the fair instead of having to drive through and enjoy some fair food and the rides,". 

RELATED: Safety protocols in place for 152nd annual SC State Fair

Because the pandemic and the virus still exist, there are safety precautions. State Fair General Manager Nancy Smith said the Columbia city mask ordinance is in effect, so all staff will be wearing face coverings.

Smith said staff will be sanitizing all surfaces like benches, tables, and rides. 

Another safety protocol being put in place this year is a clear bag policy. Smith said like other large events in the country, this is to ensure the safety of all patrons. Anyone who arrives without a clear bag will be given one at the gates when they enter. The organization will also use enhanced metal detectors at the gates. 

The fair has also updated their youth curfew police. Anyone younger than the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent (21 years and older) to enter the fair after 5 pm.

Below is a look at all the fun things to do at the fair, as provided by fair officials:

Taste some of our state’s most delicious and unique food 

With more than 90 food stands, guests will find everything — from innovative indulgences (fried cookie dough and donut burgers) to S.C. State Fair staples (Fiske fries and foot-long corn dogs), to lighter fare (the ultimate Greek salad) — luring all types of food lovers from across the state. Guests can enjoy a variety of new food options this year, including the “Steak N Eggs Sundae” from DeAnna’s Food Concessions, seafood delights from Atlantic Seafood, a deep-fried lava cake from Carousel Foods, roasted corn from the Meatball Factory Deli, and caramel apple cinnamon rolls from Grandma Brown’s Cinnamon Rolls. Plus, warm cookies and milk await guests in the expanded cookie kitchen, now located in the Rosewoods Salon. Visit SCStateFair.org to learn more.

Enjoy new and classic rides
With 60 rides, this year’s S.C. State Fair is sure to create special moments — from sky-high thrillers to family-friendly fun, including two new kiddie rides, DUMBO and Tea Cup. DUMBO sends kids spinning in delight high into the air. The brilliant colors on DUMBO — accompanied by bright lights and lively parrots – are sure to make this new family ride a fan favorite. Tea Cup is composed of a turntable, inside of which are four smaller turntables with six cups. Passengers can manually rotate the cups via a central steering wheel.

Experience a diverse and unique lineup of entertainment

  • CIRCUS at the Fair: The free, daily CIRCUS at the Fair is returning for a second year and will feature a brand-new larger tent, fresh new acts and a never-before-seen show. Get ready for the thrills under the new big top. Led by Ringmaster Ian Garden, the CIRCUS acts will include performances from Urias Globe of Death, Surnina Sisters, Joseph Bauer Wheel of Destiny, Duo Petrov Juggling, The Upside Down Man and Adam Kutchler (the clown). Visit SCStateFair.orgto learn more
    • The CIRCUS will perform three 40 minute-long shows each day beside the Ellison Building near the South Gate Entrance. Shows begin at 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Daily admission to the CIRCUS is free with your fair admission ticket. Each show features a variety of new, exciting entertainment from a renowned lineup of traditional and unique circus acts.
  • Celebration Super Wheel: The popular Celebration Super Wheel will return — towering above the midway at a breathtaking 150 feet. This Rolls Royce of Ferris wheels features 36 climate-controlled gondolas, each seating four to six guests, that provide luxurious and smooth rides coupled with unparalleled views of the fairgrounds and Columbia. The spectacular LED light design at night can be seen for miles across the Columbia landscape. The Celebration Super Wheel is $12 per ride and $20 for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to ride the VIP gondola (Cost not part of the POP wristband).
  • Music: Music has always been important to the S.C. State Fair and their fans alike. Enjoy musical performances on your schedule from Diamonds & Whiskey, Bombshell, Renata the Band, Geru Y Su Legion 7, Dennis Lee Band, Thistle & Lace, Carl Brunson, Swingin’ Medallions and more.
  • Heritage Village: Fair visitors can experience the wonders of yesteryear in the Heritage Village where a multi-dimensional display of entertainment, crafts, bowl turning and pottery from years gone by will be on display. This year’s display features a glass blower and the educational — yet immersive — experience is sure to leave an impression on family members of all ages.
  • Stage and Roving Shows: The S.C. State Fair will feature a mix of stage and roving shows, including various musical shows, dance groups, animal acts, magicians, jugglers, stunt artists and other entertainers. Daily shows include: The Robocars: Changing from Cars to Robots, The Strolling Piano and the Amazing Giants. You can catch these acts daily roving the grounds.

Experience South Carolina’s natural beauty
The beauty of art and flowers will return to this year’s flower show. The flower arrangements will be dispersed among a wide range of artworks throughout the Cantey building. In addition to Potted Plant and Cut Horticulture competitions, several flower shows will be held in the Cantey building at the S.C. State Fair, including the Ikebana International Chapter #182, the Garden Club Council of Greater Columbia, Mid-Carolina Camellia Society and the South Carolina Rose Society.

Explore the works of some of the state’s most talented artists 

Patrons can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Fine Art Department in the Cantey Building as they view the works of some of the state’s best amateur, professional and student artists. Featured categories include ceramics, pottery, aqua painting, oil painting, drawing, mixed media, prints, photography, digital photography, open media and sculpture.

Discover South Carolina’s agricultural roots
The S.C. State Fair is rooted in agriculture. South Carolina residents will compete for bragging rights and a blue ribbon with their home-grown produce, including apples, home garden wagons, large pumpkins and watermelons, Christmas trees, a shoe garden, sugar cane, sweet potatoes and more. There will even be a scarecrow making contest. Visit with the South Carolina Beekeepers, Clemson Extension and 4H, and stop by the produce stand to purchase South Carolina grown produce.

Visit with live farm animals
Visit with live farm animals, including swine, sheep, rabbits, horses and more. Watch a Donkey & Mule Show, experience a Border Collie Exhibition and get up close and meet members of the Commerford Petting Zoo, a family-owned and operated petting zoo featuring domestic animals and hand-raised exotic animals.