The Coastal Carolina Fair had a great year in 2017, according to President, Billy Robinson. Attendance increased 8% from 2016; about 255,000 people attended the 2017 fair October 26th-November 5th. "We had 11 days of wonderful weather and were very pleased with the turnout," says Robinson.
Admission at the Coastal Carolina Fair was $10 for adults, $5 for children 6 and up and children 6 and under are free. The fair offered 4 admission promotions this year. One Monday of the fair was Military Appreciation Day on which active or retired military members and one family member received free admission. On the other Monday of the fair, they hosted a promotion with the local paper; anyone who brought the front page of the Sunday paper to the fair on Monday got in for free. "Bring a friend for free" day was hos
ted on both Thursdays of the fair. Every year the fair hosts a senior day on which the fair is open early from 10am-2pm for seniors only and admission is just $5.
All grounds acts and main stage entertainment are included with admission at the Coastal Carolina Fair. This year artists such as Blood Sweat and Tears, William Michael Morgan, Dana Chestnut, and Colin Ray (among others) performed on the main stage. On Sunday, the fair hosted a Latino Day where Latino artists performed on the main stage; "the Latino Day was widely received and definitely one of our larger turnouts at the main stage," says Robinson. Other entertainment on the stage included Hotel California, an Eagles tribute band, and a ventriloquist.
New this year, the fair booked a pirates high wire act for 3 shows a day; "it's a really neat show and each of their performances were standing room only," says Robinson. The fair tries to rotate grounds acts and feature a new, pretty large show each year for fairgoers to enjoy. There are two other small stages on the grounds throughout the fair: one that features local entertainment such as high school bands and church choirs and another that has smaller acts such as acrobats, musicians, and comedians. This year, the fair also hosted 3 nights of the American Bull Riders Tour. Bull riding was very popular at the fair and each show had standing room only, according to Robinson.
Amusements of America is the long time midway provider for the Coastal Carolina Fair; "the fair is in its 61st year and Amusements of America has been with us for 60 of them. They do a great job and have always been a great partner for us," says Robinson. According to Amusements of America's Dominic Vivona Jr., the company had a great year at the Coastal Carolina Fair; "it was close to a record year. We are excited to renew our contract with the Coastal Carolina Fair again. It's a great way to end the fair season," says Vivona.
The food at the Coastal Carolina Fair "certainly runs the gamut." says Robinson, but there are always some new and interesting creations for families to enjoy each year. New this year was a steak sundae vendor; the sundae starts with fries or mashed potatoes and then customers can add proteins and sauces to their liking. 2017 was the second year that a vendor from Iowa came to the fair to sell a pork tenderloin sandwich which is crowd favorite, says Robinson. There was even a somewhat healthy option for guests at the fair in the form of rice bowls which featured a fully vegetarian choice.
Unfortunately, 4-H and FFA do not have a large presence in the schools or in the region surrounding the Coastal Carolina Fair. However, fair organizers are sure to feature agriculture and livestock each year. An agriculture barn sits on the grounds and each year the fair brings in different bulls, horses, pigs, and goats for people of all ages to see and learn about. The agriculture chairman of the fair works with local farmers to bring in the animals for educational purposes. Attached to the barn is an arena which features the bull riding and horse shows.
The fair also has a full building dedicated to creative arts. Cooking demos, and every type of entry from crocheting to canning are featured at the Coastal Carolina Fair. Photography is an important and popular competition and exhibition at the fair; there is a whole separate building to house all the entries submitted from adults and children alike. The Charleston Flower Guild also hosts a flower competition during the fair.
The Coastal Carolina Fair is run by volunteers and is owned by the Exchange Club of Charleston. "The fair is the only fundraising project we have," says Robinson. Each member contributes 40 hours of work at the fair each year. The only hired employees are the clean up and security crews. All proceeds from the fair go to local charities. The Exchange Club has a separate committee which reviews grant requests from charities; the club discusses them and votes on which grants to request. "Last year we were just shy of helping 100 charities. We gave $800,000 and all that stays within a 3 county region of Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley. It's something we're very proud of," says Robinson.
To advertise the fair, volunteers rely on in kind trade with the paper. They also purchase billboard space and make sure their website is up to date and informative. Advance sale tickets are sold through the website and also at local Walgreens stores.
Robinson's biggest goal for the 2017 fair was to make sure all guests were safe and that the 2017 fair concluded with no major safety issues. 2018 is sure to be a big year for the Coastal Carolina Fair and the Exchange Club. They have been working on designing a new building for about 18 months; it will encompass the creative arts departments during the fair. The building has 2 separate but attached portions brought together by a commercial kitchen. The wings of the building are 7,000 and 5,000 square feet respectively. Groundbreaking for the building should begin around early January and they anticipate use of the building for the 2018 fair. The Exchange Club plans to use the building for off-season rentals to help increase revenue for the club and thus giving to the community. "We are looking forward to seeing the realization of this dream. We have high hopes that it will be a good revenue stream for us," says Robinson.
Robinson is the outgoing President of the fair board as he has served his 2 year term. Now, he will sit on the board for an addition two years to support the incoming President. "I would like to thank my supportive board for all they do and I look forward to sitting on the board to help the incoming President," says Robinson. The 2018 Coastal Carolina Fair will be October 25th-November 6th.