If it’s fall, it must be time for the Coastal Carolina Fair.
Now in its 57th year, the fair draws more than 250,000 people to the Exchange Park during its 10-day run each year and pumps about $750,000 annually into local charities.
The fair, run by the Exchange Club of Charleston, opens Thursday and will run through Nov. 10.
“As always, we are promising a safe and secure fair,” said spokesman Joe Bolchoz. “You can’t have fun if you don’t feel safe.”
As part of those safety measures, book bags, backpacks, bags and coolers are banned, and fair officials will not store or hold these items for people who have them. Strollers are allowed.
“We are strongly discouraging backpacks, but common sense will prevail,” said Bolchoz. “We recognize that mothers with children certainly need to carry certain things and people with health issues sometimes have to carry a cooler for their medicine. The only thing that might happen is a courtesy inspection.”
Another new safety measure involves lost children. In addition to child identification tags and wristbands that are available at the fair, parents will be encouraged to take a photo of their child on their cellphone or tablet at the entrance, where height charts will be posted. If the child gets lost, an accurate photo can be disseminated to deputies working at the fair.
Also, a spinning ride called the Vortex, which was scheduled to be part of the Midway, has been replaced by the Nemesis 360.
Five people were injured when they fell off the Vortex at the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh last week. The operator, who works for an independent ride contractor, was charged with tampering with the ride, but fair officials did not want to take any chances.
“The Nemesis was here about three years ago and was a big draw then,” Bolchoz said. “We think it will be again this year.”
Here’s what else you need to know:
Location: Exchange Park, 9850 U.S. Highway 78, Ladson
Gate hours: 3-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 3-11 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday; Noon-9 p.m. Sunday.
Admission: $8/adults, $5/ages 6-12, free/under 5. Greenbax also are accepted: 8 books/adults or 5 books/ages 6 to 12.
Arriving: Signs on Interstate 26 will direct you to use exit 205A (U.S. 78) or exit 203 (College Park Road). Officials recommend that drivers be patient and allow extra time.
Once you reach the fairgrounds, S.C. Highway Patrol and other officials will direct you to a parking area. There is parking for 10,000 cars, so make a note of where you leave your vehicle. Parking areas are well-lit and are patrolled. Handicap spaces are available near Gate 1.
Entering: Gates for the fair are numbered 1, 2 and 4. Gate 1, fronting U.S. 78, is handicap-accessible. This is also where parents can drop off or pick up teenagers.
Lost and Found: The administration office and lost and found are by Gate 1, and the Lost Child Caboose is just inside this gate. If your child gets lost, Exchange Club members have radios to get the word out immediately. “Found” children are taken to the Lost Child Caboose near Gate 1.
at the fair
Layout: The grounds are laid out in a figure eight. The exhibit halls, two Kiddieland ride areas, the petting zoo and livestock areas, the entertainment stages and many food vendors are in the front circle. The loops intersect at the hand-stamp ticket sales, and the Midway rides and games are in the back.
Necessaries: There are seven sets of restrooms with diaper-changing stations throughout the grounds. They are staffed by attendants to keep them clean.
Budget-minded visitors: Admission includes daily entertainment on four stages, the animal barn, horse shows and exhibits.
Food: You can buy fried gummy bears and jalapeno corn dogs this year, but salads and other healthy fare also are available. Vendors range from local clubs to traveling vendors. Families can take a break to eat in the picnic area.
Hand stamps vs. coupons: Hand stamps that allow unlimited rides are $20 Sunday through Thursday and $25 Friday and Saturday. Families who want to ride only a few rides can purchase coupon books, which can be used by more than one person, for $20.
Other things to know
Rides: There are 66 rides spread over three areas. Two Kiddieland areas in the front loop have rides for the youngest fair-goers, some of which allow adults to ride along. The back circle, or Midway, is where you’ll find thrill rides with neon lights and loud music. The Exchange Club prides itself on bringing in the latest thrill rides available each year. The rides are checked out by state ride inspectors and an independent company.
Safety: Exchange Club members, wearing caps that say “Coastal Carolina Fair,” and many off-duty deputies patrol the grounds.
Volunteers: Plenty are on duty in case of medical emergencies.
Tips: If you’d like to try to avoid crowds, Bolchoz suggests arriving early and on weekdays. Saturdays are the busiest days.
Young at heart: Senior Citizens Day, for those 60 and older, is 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday. Admission is $4. The event includes special games and contests, a fashion show and line dancing. The Midway opens at 3 p.m.
Closing time: Posted fair hours state the gates’ opening time. Buildings open an hour later, and the rides generally stay open two hours past the gate closing. Nightly fireworks shows are at 8:45 Sunday through Thursday and 10 Friday and Saturday.
Contact: coastalcarolinafair.org or 572-3161.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.