There was a hefty price to enter the annual Coastal Carolina Fair over the weekend.
And it wasn't the admission fee.
For most guests, it was the hours-long wait in bumper-to-bumper traffic to reach the Exchange Park fairgrounds.
Boasting one its busiest days on record Saturday, fair attendance and traffic are yet another byproduct of the tri-county's explosive growth.
Since 2000, the Charleston metro area has added more than 210,000 residents. That growth was reflected in fair attendance.
Saturday saw 54,428 guests at the annual event, the third-highest single-day attendance in 10 years. Throughout its entire 11-day span, the fair welcomed more than 233,000 overall guests after setting a record last year with more than 254,000 attendees.
This brought traffic woes. Before guests could enjoy bumper cars, they had to endure bumper-to-bumper traffic. Traveling from the Interstate 26 exits to the fairgrounds — located at 9850 U.S. Highway 78 in Ladson — took some people several hours.
On Saturday, people complained on social media about their trip.
"We waited in traffic for 3 hours, literally 3 hours," Meg Harris posted on Facebook Saturday night.
Angelica Redfearn echoed that sentiment.
"I waited two hours on the Ladson exit on Saturday," she said.
Fair officials said most callers complained about waiting for three hours.
In addition to the growing number of tri-county residents, fair officials also pointed to other issues that caused Saturday's traffic delay.
Fair spokesman Gary Leonard said Saturday's congestion was mainly caused by most fair guests waiting until that day to attend. On Oct. 27 — the first Saturday of the event — 32,954 people showed up, compared with the 52,000-plus that attended the final Saturday.
The fair runs for 11 consecutive days from late October to early November, and many people generally wait to go.
"People just tend to go the second Saturday regardless," Leonard said.
The S.C. Highway Patrol said limited parking played a role, too.
“The fair only has 10,000 parking spaces," said spokesman Lance Cpl. Matt Southern. "Once those parking lots get full, it kind of backs up into the roadway."
Access to the fairgrounds is also limited. All festival traffic eventually is funneled onto U.S. Highway 78, which has four lanes. This leads to a bottleneck surrounding the highway intersections at Ladson and College Park roads.
Fair officials have tried to mitigate the problem. Several years ago, organizers added an extra day to alleviate the Saturday traffic. They also extended fair hours and have included weekday promotional events for seniors and military personnel.
"We’d rather have you come during the week," Leonard said. "It’s a world of difference."
Despite the traffic, officials are happy with the fair's popularity and success. The Exchange Club of Charleston, which hosts the event, uses fair proceeds to fund local charities. Between 2003 and 2018, more than $9 million has gone towards charities like Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels and senior centers.