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Who doesn't love the bustle and jangle, the smells, the sounds, the energy, and the tastes of a lively state fair? In this fast-changing world, keeping any endeavor alive and thriving for 150 years is an accomplishment, but the South Carolina State Fair has met any challenges with doggedness, determination, and flair.

In the early 1700s South Carolinians were gathering to exchange information about crops and livestock, and small rural fairs were held, enhanced by horse racing, raffles, and other diversions to draw in the populace. The State Agricultural Society of South Carolina was founded in 1839 and held its first annual fair and stock show in November of the following year. In 1869 the State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina was founded to revive the fair and has presented a fair in every year except 1918. The South Carolina State Fair has a long and storied history from those early days to its current "meet me at the rocket" days. Those initial fair goers would have been astonished to see the rocket, a Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile, greeting them as they arrived on the grounds.

The long story of the fair is inextricably bound to the history of South Carolina, of course, and indeed the history of the United States. Stroup ably weaves many strands together through archival records, newspaper reports, anecdotes (have you heard about the "Schara-mouche-Dance by a person from London?") and vintage artifacts, illustrations, paintings, and photographs from the fair's inception to the present. The fair has been an admixture of serious agricultural and animal husbandry and pure entertainment—the scandalous as well as the wholesome, and Stroup investigates them all, from the "Colored State Fair" to the infamous "girlie shows" to the prizes won for livestock—and touches on characters as diverse as Preston Brooks and Seabiscuit.

As lively and entertaining as a state fair itself, Meet Me at the Rocket is as thorough a history of an important state institution as can be found. Buy a cotton candy, visit the exhibits, ride the merry-go-round, and enjoy this singular exploration of South Carolina's agriculture and industry, its science and art and history.

A foreword is provided by Walter Edgar, the Neuffer Professor of Southern Studies Emeritus and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina. He is the author of South Carolina: A History, editor of The South Carolina Encyclopedia, and host of the radio program Walter Edgar's Journal.



Publié par
Date de parution 21 octobre 2019
Nombre de lectures 2
EAN13 9781643360058
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 19 Mo

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


A History of the South Carolina State Fair
Foreword by Walter Edgar
2019 University of South Carolina
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/ .
ISBN 978-1-64336-004-1 (cloth)
ISBN 978-1-64336-005-8 (ebook)
Front cover photograph by Jeff Amberg, jeffamberg.com
Front cover design by BookMatters
Walter Edgar
1 Colonial and Antebellum Fairs, 1720-1865
2 The Fair on Elmwood Avenue, 1869-1903
3 The Greater State Fair, 1904-1920
4 The Colored State Fair, 1890-1969
The greatest event for Negroes in the state
5 The Depression and World War II, 1921-1945
6 The Grooming Ground of Champions, 1890-1969
7 Integration and the Civic Center, 1946-1964
8 County and Regional Fairs
9 From Disaster to a New Vision, 1965-1983
We have a story of a disaster, we have lost the Steel Building
10 Entertainment and the Midway
All to win a stuffed animal I really didn t want
11 The State Fair into the Twenty-first Century, 1984-2019
Nothing Could Be Swiner
12 Exhibits and Premiums
13 Icons of the State Fair
_______, meet your mother at the rocket
The State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina
Fairs have been an integral part of South Carolina culture since the 1720s, when the Commons House of Assembly authorized them for the rural market crossroads of Dorchester, Ashley Ferry Town, and Childsbury. These annual, four-day events were the harbingers of later county fairs and, eventually, a state fair. Within a generation, the colonial South Carolina fairs evolved from simple bazaars or markets into something that would be familiar to fairgoers today. There were agricultural exhibits, horse races, food, and games-in short, fun for the entire family.
In this account of the South Carolina State Fair, Rodger Stroup has mined a myriad of sources to compile a fascinating account not just of the fair itself but also its various components. And, importantly, it answers a lot of questions.
For example, it is commonly believed today that the State Fair is a governmental agency. It is not; it is operated by a nonprofit organization, the State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina, for the benefit and enjoyment of nearly a half-million South Carolinians every year. How and why this occurred makes for entertaining reading.
And, inquiring Carolinians might also want to know .
Where did one of the fair s signature icons-the Rocket-come from?
Did you know that world-class thoroughbreds, including the famous Seabiscuit, once spent the winter training at the fairgrounds? Or that the Palmetto Trials were a feature on the American horse racing circuit?
Big Thursday, for decades the annual gridiron clash between Clemson and Carolina, was the highlight of fair week. Why is it now just a memory?
Why, for more than seventy years, were there two State Fairs?
When and why did girlie and freak shows disappear from the midway?
How have outside events such as the Civil War, the Great Depression, and avian influenza affected the fair?
In answering these questions and many others, Stroup has written much more than an institutional history. He sets the South Carolina State Fair in the broader context of South Carolina history.
Scattered throughout the text are dozens of interesting-and rare-illustrations, including the National Corn Building that brought the country s National Corn Show to Columbia; a turn-of-the-twentieth-century poster for the Colored State Fair; foreign visitors at the Palmetto Trials; a view of the midway in the 1950s; Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy, performing at the grandstand; a petrified man from an old freak show; a list of premiums (prizes) awarded in 1859; and a 4-H Club exhibit from the 1930s.
Rodger Stroup and the State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina are to be congratulated for producing Meet Me at the Rocket . It will be a welcome addition to my bookshelf.
Walter Edgar
In 2013 Walter Edgar contacted me and asked if I would be interested in writing a history of the South Carolina State Fair. For the 150th anniversary of their founding, the State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina had decided to publish a history of the society and the State Fair to commemorate its sesquicentennial. Even though I knew very little about the State Fair, other than it was a fun place to go in the fall, I told Walter that I would like to take on the project. After a survey of the secondary sources I discovered that the story of the society and the fair were only mentioned in passing, and most of the research would need to come from primary sources. The society s institutional history, published in 1916, and its board minutes from 1918 to the present provided a general outline but contained little detailed information.
I quickly realized that the best source of primary material was the newspapers. I did not relish the idea of reading through 150 years of newspapers on microfilm. Fortunately, a wealth of South Carolina newspapers are available online through NewsBank and Chronicling America, all searchable by words or phrases. Without the online newspapers, the research would have taken much longer, and many articles buried on the back pages would probably have been missed.
A major challenge was locating the illustrations to accompany the story. Except for the 1872 bird s eye view of the map of Columbia, I was unable to find an image of the Elmwood Avenue fairgrounds. Most disheartening is the lack of an image of Columbia s Main Street during the fair, where many of the midway activities happened between the 1870s and 1914. But I was able to find a wealth of fascinating images thanks to the staff members of the South Caroliniana Library, the State Archives of North Carolina, the Richland Library, the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, the South Carolina State Library, the Thomas Cooper Library Government Information Maps Department, the Strates Shows, the South Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Library of Congress, the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, the University of South Carolina Archives, and the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. Several individuals also shared their images, including Bill and Trish Eccles, Jack A. Meyer, Ralph N. Riley, Rice Music House, Mike Safran, and David C. Sennema.
In addition to the images, the illustrations depict many fair-related artifacts. Institutions and individuals who allowed me to share photos of their treasures include Tom and Beth Evers, Barry Gibbes, Burl R. Kennedy, Jo Mewbourn, the South Carolina State Museum, and Four Oaks Farm. Since starting this endeavor in 2013, I have perused online and live auctions and roamed through local antique malls acquiring several artifacts used in the book. A special thanks to Hunter Clarkson, who not only took many of the photographs but whose attention to detail in preparing all of the illustrations for publication ensured each image was of the highest quality possible.
Working with Gary Goodman, retired general manager of the society, and Nancy Smith, the current general manager, was a pleasure. They were both very supportive and always ready to provide whatever resources I needed. Thanks to the society s board of directors for entrusting me with this opportunity and for allowing me to go where the research led. I hope I discovered things about the State Fair that they did not know.
Finally, a very special thank you to Susanne R. Kennedy, a longtime member of the society board, and her son Burl R. Kennedy. Susanne has a wealth of knowledge about the fair, and I frequently called on her to help me verify facts and clarify issues where I was in doubt. In addition to his mother s service on the society s board, Burl s grandfather was the general manager of the fair during the 1960s. Burl grew up with the fair in his blood, and he generously shared not only his knowledge of the fair but also his extensive collection of fair memorabilia.
Last and certainly not least, my wife, Martha, deserves a special commendation for her support and patience. For the past couple of years, our study, then porch, and now dining room have been cluttered with State Fair stuff. Martha provided encouragement as I have worked through challenges, and her careful reading of the manuscript has alerted me to items that need to be clarified.
Since 1969 fairgoers have frequently heard the phrase meet your mother at the Rocket blast from the public address system escalating the rocket to icon status. While the Rocket would be unknown to fairgoers of an earlier time, each era of the fair had icons that would be unfamiliar to current fairgoers. From the State Ball in the 1870s through the 1910s or Big Thursday from the 1890s to the 1950s, each of these icons was closely aligned with the fair until their demise.
Colonial and Antebellum Fairs
In the early years of colonial South Carolina, farmers and planters came together to exchange information about crops and livestock. Primarily social occasions, these events also featured competitive activities and prizes. In the 1780s a statewide agricultural society sponsored annual gatherings but focused on activities and orations encouraging agricultur

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