South Carolina loves its festivals and fairs, from the sophisticated and glamorous to over-the-top shenanigans: Spoleto Festival USA, ArtFields, half a dozen Highland Games and dozens of Oktoberfests in towns across the state, and hundreds of food and music festivals and church and agricultural fairs. And of course, the South Carolina State Fair, which rolls like a glorious fried-Oreo-and-chesseburger-on-donuts juggernaut into Columbia each fall.
As a dedicated fair and festival goer, I promise you: They are all wonderful. They all celebrate that sense of community and unbridled joy that South Carolinians embody.
But there are some festivals which are just a little bit quirkier, a touch wackier and therefore just a little bit more South Carolinian, somehow. These festivals are like others in most ways: food, music, games and rides. But they each add a little something special. Curious to know just what we mean? Here are three of the most South Carolinian festivals you’ll find in all of South Carolina:
South Carolinians know how to have a good time. Sometimes, that involves cooters.
I suppose it helps to know that a cooter is a class of freshwater turtles, including eight different species across the Southeast. Cooters in South Carolina live in sleepy ponds and ditches. They aren’t particularly fast creatures, but this hasn’t stopped the good people of Allendale from holding cooter races each spring at the “Cooter Bowl” in front of the Allendale County Courthouse.
So go ahead, trap yourself a winner, and enter the races. Can’t or don’t know how? No worries. You can rent one at the “Rent a Cooter” booth.
Never heard of a bog-off before? It’s a cutthroat chicken bog competition, of course.
Never heard of chicken bog? You must not be from South Carolina. Here’s a primer: Just What is Chicken Bog?
At the annual Loris Bog-Off contestants set up kitchens right in the street and make their secret recipes in front of the throngs of chicken bog fans who come to watch and taste. 200 lucky (and hopefully hungry) people who purchase special tickets get to sample each bog, and then vote on the People’s Choice winner for best bog.
Our advice: Don’t eat breakfast beforehand.
Ever dreamed of rolling around in thousands of gallons of cooked grits in a large blow-up baby pool in public? How could anyone resist? Here’s your chance: the World Grits Festival of St. George.
The “Rolling in the Grits” competition at the heart of the festival is exactly what it sounds like: contestants roll around in grits, then weigh in to see who has most pounds of grits sticking to them. The trick, we’ve been told, is to wear clothing with lots of pockets.
And if rolling in stone-ground corn hominy cooked with butter and salt (some people—crazy people—inexplicably prefer grits made with cheese) doesn’t sound appetizing, you can dine on grits at the festival, too.