Ladson — A small crowd gathered Thursday afternoon in front of the iron gates for the opening of the 56th annual Coastal Carolina Fair.
The Kromphold family was front and center.
Jerry Kromphold of Summerville, who was with his 6-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter, said attending opening day is a family tradition.
“Their grandparents started coming on the first day from open to close, and it’s something they’ve done since their mother was little,” he said.
His son Joseph jumped up and down in anticipation of the gate’s opening after Exchange Club members cut the yellow ribbon and people poured in from the line outside the gate.
Despite the excitement of some, others have felt frustration over the traffic created by the thousands of people who attend daily.
Jonathan and Johanna Chapman of Mount Pleasant opted out last year, after experiencing a two-hour wait in traffic two years ago. This year they were among the first in line with their daughters 7-year-old Abigail and 4-year-old Rachel.
“We decided to give it a second try. We came today to avoid the crowds,” Johanna Chapman said. “It worked out perfect. We were able to park up front.”
Traffic and parking have plagued the fair every year, something the Exchange Club of Charleston works on improving annually, according to Joe Bolchoz, spokesman for the organization that hosts the fair.
“The biggest problem facing the Coastal Carolina Fair is the interstate system, and it is what it is,” Bolchoz said. “We’re trying to work it so that when you hit the grounds, we’re going to get you in, get you through the gate and let you have a good time.”
This year lanes into the fair are being rerouted, intended to help improve the flow of parking, Bolchoz said. An extra day was added to the schedule, Nov. 4, and Saturdays the fair will open at 10 a.m. instead of noon, which is also expected to help ease the traffic troubles.
If you can fry it, it’s most likely found at the Coastal Carolina Fair, from cookies to sticks of butter. Traditional fair food favorites also line the fairway, from corn dogs to funnel cakes. There are about 75 food vendors to choose from, everything from Oriental to Greek or Italian.
Nine-year-old Jessica Kromphold was very specific about what she would eat — a caramel apple.
Others craved the performances scheduled on the fairgrounds. Ric Proctar, of Hanahan, in his 10th year attending, knew exactly who he was there to see.
“I come here today because of Paul Revere and the Raiders,” he said.
This year The Village People, Marshall Tucker and Corey Smith, among others, are on the lineup of shows.
If music is too tame an attraction, a hypnotist and a lumberjack show also will be featured on stage. Those in search of an adrenaline rush have choices with 66 rides and two to three new children’s rides this year.
Two-year-old Mariya Hiott couldn’t get enough of the Frog Hopper ride, where children were strapped in sitting down, lined up in a straight row, lifted into the air and brought back down. Six-year-old Denzel Jefferson loved it so much he rode it five times.
Behind the scenes, organizers worked hard to prevent accidents, injuries, or sicknesses, according to Bolchoz.
In an attempt to prevent E. Coli bacteria outbreaks, fair organizers are trying something different this year, a new product.
“It’s a solution we’re able to spray and cover all the hard surface areas where these germs can live,” Bolchoz said.
Workers are spraying surfaces three to four times during the fair, according to Bolchoz, who said a few of the fair organizers have also been trained in how to deal with an E. Coli outbreak.
He said safety is key in more ways than one. Charleston County sheriff’s deputies were walking around the fairgrounds in pairs, where they will spend the entirety of the event.
In 2010 they arrested eight people on the fairgrounds and 10 in 2011. Bolchoz wouldn’t say how many deputies are hired for the event, but that the number changes daily.
“We’ve always felt we’ve had adequate security on these grounds,” Bolchoz said.
Last year deputies found one gun and responded to four assaults on the fair grounds.
“These deputies have been with us for years. They’re professionals. They know what to look for,” he said.
“We don’t want anybody here who doesn’t want to have a good time.”