From South Carolina State Fair Website:History of the Fair
Organized in 1869, the South Carolina State Fair continues to keep its very important agricultural roots alive, while offering fun, food, education and great competitive exhibit opportunities for all.
Each October, people of all ages come to Columbia to participate in the South Carolina State Fair, one of the TOP 50 Fairs in the United States. Exhibits as well as livestock competitions and entertainment draw both rural and urban crowds.
The State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina, an eleemosynary institution owned and controlled by life members, is responsible for the establishment of the South Carolina State Fair.
The present State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina was preceded by the State Agricultural Society of South Carolina, 1839-49 and the State Agricultural Society of South Carolina, 1855-61.
In November of 1839, the State Agricultural Society was organized in Columbia, SC. Patrick Nobel was President; W.B. Seabrook, Whitfield Brooks, W.K. Clowney, James Gregg and B.F. Dunkin, Vice Presidents; and George McDuffie, Anniversary Orator. This Society ended in the 1940's.
On August 8, 1855, an agricultural convention met in Columbia and resulted in the reorganization of the Society of which the present State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina is the successor. A.P. Calhoun was elected President; A.G. Summer, Secretary. Summer was succeeded by R.J. Gage as Secretary, and Calhoun served as President until the outbreak of the Civil War. Buildings were erected with an initial $5,000 appropriation from the Legislature.
In 1861, the Society's Fair buildings were occupied by Confederate authorities and used in the manufacture of munitions of war. In 1865, Sherman's army burned the buildings.
Again in April 1869, the Society was resurrected with Johnson Hagood, President, and D. Wyatt Aiken, Secretary. The City of Columbia reconstructed the buildings, in part, and a fund was raised from sale of life memberships with which to renew the operations of the Society and create a statewide fair. At that time, the Legislature appropriated $2,500 annually to assist the Society in its worthwhile endeavors.
The area on Elmwood grew too small for the event, so in 1904, the Society moved the fair to its present location on property along Bluff Road in Columbia.
In 1912, the Society bought the Hippodrome Building, which had been used for the Jamestown Exposition near Norfolk, Virginia in 1907 and for the National Republican Convention in 1908. It was moved to Columbia, where the National Corn show was held that year. Destroyed by fire in 1966, the building was replaced by the present Hampton and Ruff Buildings.
Today, the State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina has full responsibility for the operation of the fair and much of the proceeds are provided to charitable organizations throughout the state. Though the fair is still considered the "State Fair", it is not state-owned and receives no appropriation from the State of South Carolina.
The Society has 6 buildings, totaling more than 125,000 square feet of exhibit space. The premiums offered for the Society's annual state fair have grown from $5,000 in 1882 to more than $300,000 today, and, at the same time, attendance has increased from 3,000 to over 600,000. Also, other shows, exhibitions, and events are held at the site throughout the year to further the Society's objective "to promote the material, educational, agricultural and industrial interests of the state." Throughout its existence, the State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina has continued to fulfill that charge.
THE FAIR GIVES BACK...Thank you for riding those rides and eating all those corndogs! Over the last decade, the fair has returned over $1M to educate SC's youth.