Fun, food, entertainment and South Carolina culture return to Columbia, S.C. Oct. 11-22, 2023
Columbia, S.C. is set to come alive with 12 days of pure excitement as the 154th South Carolina State Fair makes its grand return Oct. 11-22, 2023. The beloved annual event promises an unforgettable fusion of tradition and innovation — featuring not only the cherished fair classics but also 13 new foods and drinks and two captivating world-class traveling exhibits.
“From the blue-ribbon home-grown produce to the outstanding entertainment, many people across the great state of South Carolina contribute each year to make your South Carolina State Fair possible,” says S.C. State Fair General Manager Nancy Smith. “Many of the fair favorites that you’ve come to know and love are back, along with some new and exciting offerings around every corner. We can’t wait to meet you all at the Rocket for 12 days of fun and excitement.”
With a thrilling array of rides, delectable foods, the free daily CIRCUS at the Fair and a diverse lineup of entertainment, this year’s fair is gearing up to be an extraordinary celebration of South Carolina culture and a must-visit destination for all. Here’s everything you need to know about the 2023 S.C. State Fair.
Meet Me at the World-Class Traveling Exhibitions (New!)
Experience two mesmerizing traveling exhibitions: Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibition and Remembering Our Fallen.
Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibition
Be immersed into the life of the world’s most beloved Princess at the Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibition, a walkthrough documentary capturing some of the most iconic and intimate moments in Royal Family history. Embark on a journey through Princess Diana’s life from a perspective you’ve never heard before – hers. For the first time in his 60-year-career, Princess Diana’s favorite Official Royal Photographer and trusted companion, Anwar Hussein, shares the untold stories of Royal life and the Princess that we could not take our eyes off of and observed closely.
Accredited by the Royal Family, Anwar and his two sons, Samir and Zak, make up the longest-standing family of Official Royal Photographers, having collectively spent more than four decades working side by side with the iconic Princess and her family. Anwar, in particular, changed the way we see the Royal Family by taking casual photographs that captured the subjects’ lives and emotions.
Named one of the “Top 12 Immersive Experiences Around the World You Need to Visit” by CNN, the exhibit has sold out in Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and Puerto Rico. Since launching in 2021, it has become a fan-favorite, being featured in People magazine, Variety, Access Hollywood, as well as the LA Times, and has accumulated a 4.9 out of 5-star guest rating.
Learn more at www.scstatefair.org/attractions/princess-diana-exhibition/.
Remembering Our Fallen
Discover this traveling tribute to our military fallen from the Global War on Terror, Remembering Our Fallen, a photographic war memorial showcases 34 tribute towers, honoring not only those who made the ultimate sacrifice but also those who served in combat zones and succumbed to invisible wounds. Additionally, a tribute tower has been included to pay homage to our brave military personnel who tragically lost their lives in stateside or non-combat training accidents. Join us in honoring their service and sacrifice at the profound memorial. Learn more at https://www.scstatefair.org/attractions/remembering-our-fallen/.
Meet Me at the Food and Drink Stands (Food and Beverages)
With more than 90 food stands, the S.C. State Fair is a haven for food lovers. In addition to the beloved classics such as foot-long corn dogs, elephant ears, lemonade, turkey legs and fried Oreos, guests can enjoy a variety of 13 new food and drink options this year, including Billy G’s Carolina BBQ, pumpkin spice funnel cake, dill pickle pizza, fried salted caramel pretzel brownies, mighty mango tea and more. For the first time ever, along with the warm cookies and milk available at the Pro Kitchen Cookie Kitchen, pair your cookies with coffee from Oliver Gospel Mission. Check out the Food Concessions Map at SCStateFair.org/foodmap.
Meet Me at the Rides (Rides and Games)
With an awe-inspiring lineup of nearly 70 rides, this year’s S.C. State Fair is sure to create out of this world memories for fairgoers of all ages— from thrilling sky-high adventures to family-friendly classic rides, including the following rides:
The Zipper: Back again, the Zipper features strong vertical G-forces, exhilarating spins and an element of delightful surprises.
The Wave Swinger: Tilting at its peak, the Wave Swinger rises telescopically carrying riders of young and old into the cool breeze.
Flying Dumbos: This adorable kiddie ride sends kids spinning in delight high in the air.
Double Decker Carousel: The enchanting double decker carousel is returning.
Celebration Wheel: This majestic 150-foot giant Ferris wheel accommodates up to six people, treating them to a luxurious journey with breathtaking views of Columbia.
The S.C. State Fair will feature Pay-One-Price (POP) ride days every day. Patrons can enjoy unlimited rides by exchanging a ride voucher for a POP wristband at specially marked ticket booths. New this year, Pay-One-Price vouchers can be used to enjoy unlimited rides for any of the nearly 70 rides, including the 150-foot “Celebration Wheel.”
Meet Me at the Show (Entertainment)
The following entertainment highlights will take place at this year’s S.C. State Fair. Visit SCStateFair.org for a full list of entertainment.
Meet Me at the FREE daily CIRCUS: The free, daily CIRCUS at the Fair is returning for a fourth year and will feature fresh new acts and a never-before-seen show. The CIRCUS, located beside the Ellison Building near the South Gate Entrance, will perform three 40 minute-long shows each day. 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. Led by Ringmaster Ian Garden, the CIRCUS acts will include performances from:
Laser Man (laser illuminations)
Drozdov Russian Bar (acrobatics)
Chu Chuan-Ho (juggling)
Susan Vidbel (cloud swing aerial act)
Meet Me at the Pepsi Place Stage: The following bands will perform, with concerts Monday through Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. on the Pepsi Place Stage.
Groove Machine, Oct. 11
Tokyo Joe – Southern Sky, A Tribute to the Eagles, Oct. 12
The Afters, Presented by His Radio 92.1, Oct. 13
The Regulars, Presented by iHeart Radio, Oct. 14
Columbia’s Praise Evening, Presented by Columbia’s Praise 95.7 FM, Oct. 15
Jason Sikes Tribute to Elvis, Oct. 16
Carolina Bluegrass Style, Presented by iHeart Radio, Oct. 17
J.B. SamSon, Presented by iHeart Radio, Oct. 18
Faith Schueler, Presented by iHeart Radio, Oct. 19
Dracula, sneak peek presented by Columbia City Ballet, Oct. 20
David Rodriguez and the Latin Hustle, Presented by iHeart Radio, Oct. 21
Kelontae Gavin, Presented by WFMV, Oct. 22
Meet Me at the Heritage Village: A visit to the Heritage Village offers a glimpse into the past and frontier times. Fair visitors can experience reconstructed historical structures, observe traditional crafts and demonstrations and learn about the daily lives of early settlers. This year’s display features a glass blower and a hands-on museum experience that offers a tangible connection to history.
Meet Me at the Stage Shows or Roving Acts: Musical shows, comedians and even a boiled peanut eating contest are part of an incredible lineup of stage and roving shows that will capture audiences of all ages. Here are a few of the highlights:
Ron Diamond returns with comedy, hypnosis and illusion on the Academic Avenue Stage.
Mr. Puppet (Oct. 11-15) is an absolute must see ventriloquism act on the Academic Avenue Stage.
The String Showdown is debuting at the Netterfield Stage with dueling guitars and quick wit.
Animal Cracker Conspiracy stilt walkers will leave you in awe.
Buford Bear and his miniature truck is an adorable crowd pleaser.
Cast in Bronze are made up of captivating bell sounds that will leave you wanting more.
Meet Me at the Art, Craft and Flower Exhibits
The S.C. State Fair features a variety of flower exhibits that showcase the talent of local horticulturists and gardeners. Visitors can view the exhibits and learn about the different types of flowers and plants that grow in the state. In addition to potted plant and cut horticulture competitions, several flower shows are held in the Cantey Building, including the Ikebana International Chapter #182, the Garden Club Council of Greater Columbia, Mid-Carolina Camellia Society and the South Carolina Rose Society.
Each year, the S.C. State Fair presents one of the finest art shows on the East Coast. Fairgoers can enjoy a leisurely stroll through the variety of art works in the Cantey Building — viewing 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.
People travel from every county in South Carolina to showcase their talent and creativity in home arts, crafts and baked goods. Exhibits that are found in the Moore Building include hobby crafts, quilting, sewing, baking, cake decorating and canning to name only a few divisions open for youth and adult exhibitors to compete for a coveted blue ribbon. Special displays, such as vintage bridal fashions or an antique kitchen, are also featured during the fair.
Special this year, Creative Connectors will be on the balcony of the Cantey Building. This program includes a network of creatives, entrepreneurs, makers, artist and culture bearers. Discover firsthand how creativity is the cornerstone of thriving, vibrant rural communities across South Carolina. Learn more about their mission to fuel connections and unveil hidden gems within their counties.
Meet Me at the Agriculture, Livestock and Animals
The S.C. State Fair is rooted in agriculture. South Carolina residents will compete for bragging rights and blue ribbons 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 decorating contest.
Explore the Field to Fair program through several online games designed to teach children about farming and sustainability in a fun way.
Visit McLeod Farms, featured daily in the Ellison Building, for a variety of South Carolina made and grown products and produce.
One of the main attractions at the fair are the livestock exhibits, which feature a variety of farm animals. Visitors can observe these animals up close and learn about their care, feeding and management.
Experience the Swifty Swine Racing Pigs and meet members of the Commerford Petting Zoo, a family-owned and operated petting zoo featuring domestic animals and hand-raised exotic animals.
New this year in the Ellison Building is an engaging and educational showcase by South Carolina ETV and Public Radio. Guests can test their South Carolina knowledge with lively quiz hours, get a behind-the-scenes glimpse, join story time sessions, meet Smart Cat and engage with some of your favorite personalities.
Meet Me at the Shopping
Discover shopping opportunities at the S.C. State Fair! Inside the Goodman Building, find an array of booths offering diverse choices, including Southern Siding, Healthy Fit Feet and Kitchen Craft. Alongside the shopping, engage with educational vendors like the USDA Forest Service, multiple police departments, and the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
Outside the Goodman Building offers additional shopping options including the merchandise store within the Princess Diana Exhibit, Cotton’s Novelties and McLeod Farms.
The S.C. State Fair offers the following daily promotions:
Children: All children 5 and under will be admitted FREE every day.
Seniors: $15 admission every day.
Lunch Bunch: Pop in and out of the S.C. State Fair for lunch with a special lunch bunch ticket, available from noon-2 p.m. each weekday (except Wednesday, Oct. 11). Pay your entry fee and receive a refundable $20 ticket. Return to the ticket booth with the ticket by 2 p.m. to get your money back.
American Tribute: Every day at noon, the American flag will be raised on the main flagpole outside the Cantey Building near the South Gate and the National Anthem will be played across the PA system.
Special Promotion Days
Oct. 11 – $5 admission at the gate
Oct. 12, 16 and 19 – Military Appreciation Days
Oct. 12 – South Carolina Farm Bureau Day
Oct. 13 – First Choice by Select Health Day at the Fair
Oct. 13 – HIS Radio 92.1 Family Day at the Fair
Oct 14 – FOLKFabulous Native Voices Day
Oct. 15 – South Carolina State Election Commission Day at the Fair
Oct 15 – Free admission with official 2023 Walk for Life and Famously Hot Walk/Race t-shirt
Oct 16 – College Day
Oct 17 – Future Farmers of America Day
Oct 17 – FOLKFabulous Blue Grass and Old Time Music Day
Oct 17 – Physics Day
Oct 18 – Seniors Day
Oct 19 – Sensory-Friendly Morning
Oct. 19 – Exceptional Citizens Day
Oct 20 – South Carolina Department of Agriculture Day
Oct 21 – 4-H Day
Oct 21 – FOLKFabulous Gullah Geechee Day
For a complete list of promotional days and their details: https://www.scstatefair.org/plan-your-visit/promotions/
Discount admission tickets are $10 per person ($15-$20 during the fair) and discount ride vouchers are $30 per person ($38-$40 during the fair). Visit a participating Circle K location or SCStateFair.org to purchase discount tickets now through Tuesday, Oct. 10. Visit https://www.scstatefair.org/plan-your-visit/tickets/ to learn more about admission and rides.
Clear Bag Policy
To provide a safe, enjoyable environment for all attendees, the S.C. State Fair is continuing their mandatory clear bag policy. This policy is similar to those implemented throughout Columbia, S.C. and the country, complying with a new level of security expected of large, heavily attended events and festivals. Visit https://www.scstatefair.org/plan-your-visit/fair-rules-safety/ to learn more.
For more information and to plan your visit, go to https://www.scstatefair.org/plan-your-visit/tickets/.
About the South Carolina State Fair
The South Carolina State Fair, a self-supporting 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, was organized in 1869 and is dedicated to preserving and promoting South Carolina’s agricultural roots while supporting statewide education. In addition to the 12-day South Carolina State Fair, the charitable organization manages annual football parking, is a popular event venue and hosts Carolina Lights — Columbia’s downtown drive-through light show. The South Carolina State Fair has awarded nearly $5 million in scholarships since 1997.
More information can be found at SCStateFair.org.