SC State Fair 2018: Guide to tickets, food, rides and more

The S.C. State Fair starts up again in a week, on Oct. 10, and will bring “homegrown fun” to Columbia until Oct. 21.

It’s the 149th year of the fair, and this year will bring even more excitement and fried food (though the two are not mutually exclusive).

“The variety — that’s one of the things we can really boast about,” fair spokesperson Bertram Rantin said.

Here’s what you can look forward to at the 2018 fair.

It’s time to have some fun. These are new to the fair lineup of almost 70 rides:

Frisbee: Fly 44 feet above the ground as this giant pendulum swings you and other riders back and forth.

Wet Boats: This one’s for the kiddos, who can take an enjoyable boat ride along a water-filled path.

Red Baron: Watch your children soar in miniature planes that rotate clockwise.

Jumpin’ Jumbo: Spinning, floating elephants carry young riders up and around.

Ride vouchers: Get unlimited rides when you turn in your ride voucher at any ticket kiosk at the fairgrounds, and get a pay-one-price or POP wristband in return. This deal is available every day of the fair.

Buy a ride voucher in advance (through Oct. 9) for $25, during the fair for $30 or for $35 on weekends.

Ride coupons: One for $1.25; 22 for $25; 55 for $60. Kiddie rides require two to three tickets. Other rides require four to six tickets.

Midway express access pass: Skip the ride lines with an express pass. $15.

You’ve worked up an appetite on the rides, so now it’s time to eat.

There will be more than 90 food stands on the fairgrounds, from classic items like elephant ears and corn dogs to new additions:

Red beans & rice sundaes: Rice and red beans are mixed with chorizo, spices, sweet corn, tomatoes and sauteed onions and peppers, then topped with your choice of sirloin steak, Cajun shrimp, grilled chicken tenders or pulled pork.

Frito chili pie burgers: A burger. Topped with chili. Topped with Fritos chips. Enough said.

Maple cotton candy: A sweet, swirly, iconic fair item made with maple sugar.

Apple dumplings: Like apple pie in a bite — red apple enveloped in a pie crust, baked and topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel cinnamon sauce.

The fair also will be participating in Restaurant Week for the first time by offering daily specials on food at participating vendors. The Lunch Bunch promotion will be available again this year to visitors who attend between noon and 2 p.m. on weekdays. Pay $10 cash at the gates, get a Lunch Bunch ticket and get a full $10 refund when you return your ticket by 2 p.m.

Tickets for Grandstand shows are sold online at and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 3-9 at the fair’s Early Bird Ticket Window, 1200 Rosewood Drive.

Wristbands for free concerts will be handed out, and leftover tickets will be sold at the Pepsi-Grandstand box office 90 minutes before each performance.

Tokyo Joe. Known for impressive and fun tribute shows. 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10. Free with admission and wristband

Scotty McCreery. “American Idol” winner and Bojangles’ spokesman. 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11. $15, includes admission

Brett Michaels. ’80s rockstar, former Poison frontman. 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12. $15, includes admission

La Poderosa Banda San Juan. Seventeen musicians and their version of soulful Mexican Sinaloan music. 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14. Free with admission and wristband

Trace Adkins. Country star and singer of “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15. $20, includes admission

Fantasia. “American Idol” winner and R&B singer. 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16. $20 [SOLD OUT]

The Temptations and The Four Tops. Motown legends, grooving together. 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17. $15, includes admission

Jeremy Camp and Matthew West. Grammy-nominated Christian artists. 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19. $15, includes admission

Enjoy homegrown talent, too, with free performances by local musicians: contemporary bluegrass band Kristin Scott Benson & Friends, The Columbia Choral Society and blues artists Freddie Vanderford & Millbilly Three.

Be swept off your feet by the mesmerizing art of broom making: John Holzwart of Little John’s Brooms will be creating handmade brooms in the Heritage Village, located in front of the Moore building. Brooms available for purchase.

Get befuddled at an illusion show: The Extreme Illusions and Escapes illusion show will feature Las Vegas-style stunts and escapes that will leave you questioning what is real. Performer Josh Knotts has traveled around the United States with his act and was awarded the Merlin Award (think Grammys or Oscars) in the art of magic in 2016. This show runs daily at the WLTX Stage.

Laugh the fried foods off: Comedy juggler Michael Goudeau has performed more than 13,000 shows, and now he’ll bring his talents to South Carolina. This show runs daily at the WLTX Stage.


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