12 Things to Try at the South Carolina State Fair

By:Kerry Egan

Date:10/6/2014

When my children and I drove past the state fairgrounds last week, a shout of joy erupted from the back seat, and it had nothing to do with Gamecocks tailgating.

"They're putting the ski-lift thingy up!" shouted one child.

"Look! They're building the Crazy Mouse!" yelled another.

"The State Fair is coming! Can we go? Can we go? Can we go?"

It seems that no matter how many times you've gone to the S.C. State Fair, you want to go again as soon as you see the rides climbing their way to the sky.

The fair returns for 12 glorious days every fall, this year from Oct. 14-25. You could go all 12 days and find something new and fantastic each day. Here are some of the don't-miss joys of the fair, one for each day:

Fried Oreos:
This is the holy grail of the fair -- the absolute thing you must eat. There’s no real explanation, other than to say it’s one of the best things you’ll ever taste. Warm and crispy on the outside; gooey and crunchy on the inside. And all covered with powdered sugar. If you can only eat one thing, make it this. Some of the other crazy-sounding things also are good, including the fried Snickers, and the Krispy Kreme doughnut burger, topped with bacon, of course.

Mule races: "Stubborn as a mule" is more than a cliche at the fair. Mules are little and ornery, which makes watching a half dozen full-grown people riding bareback trying to race them one of the funniest things at the fair. Catch the races on the first weekend, or go all out for Donkey and Mule Fun Day.

Duck waterslide: In the building housing the champion chickens, don’t miss the baby ducks. They slide down a short conveyor belt and splash into water, then climb back up and do it again. Also, say hello to the champion Gamecocks while you’re there.

High flying swings: Not for the faint of heart, but it’s the best place to take a photo of your daredevil kid, flying high over a sea of humanity.

Bag of doughnuts for the road: The doughnut stand stretches all along the walkway toward the parking lot. It’s there for a reason. Snag a bag for the ride home (get the cinnamon-coated ones, and get the large.) After all the other things you’ve done, you might as well cap the night off right.

Fiske fries: It’s one of the fair’s oldest traditions and should almost be a requirement. Hot, crispy, gone in a flash. The mushrooms also are fabulous.

Lemonade: It’s fresh squeezed and oh so refreshing. Get the big cup and you can get it refilled at a discount.

Sand sculpture: Artists build an amazing sandcastle in the Ruff building every year. It’s as detailed as sculptures you see in fine art museums, and will go away as quickly as it came.

Giant turkey leg: You've probably noticed a trend here -- food. Decadent food is one of the big draws and best parts of the fair. Indulge your inner caveman, and gnaw on a giant roasted turkey leg. They're always bright red and savagely delicious.

Rides until you're dizzy: If you just can't get enough Tilt-a Whirl, Teacups and Skyglider, you're in luck. Weekdays are Pay-One-Price days for rides. For $28 you get a POP wristband, good for as many rides as you can handle. You can also buy individual tickets for the rides on weekends, just keep in mind what you’ve eaten before you climb on that bright, shiny ride that spins around and around.

Pig races: You thought nothing was cuter than two dozen ducklings on a waterslide, right? That's only because you haven't seen four piglets gamboling and squealing around a tiny racetrack. The Swifty Swine Racing and Swimming Pigs race in front of the Nutt Castle Arena. And guess what the winning piglet's prize is? An Oreo. Of course.

The 2015 S.C. State Fair runs from Oct. 14-25 at the State Fairgrounds, 1200 Rosewood Drive, Columbia. Click here for ticket information. Parking is free.

For more information: www.scstatefair.org

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