After 33 years of being the driving force behind the SC State Fair, all Gary Goodman wants to take with him are his memories...and a cup of dirt.
The dirt is symbolic of many things. There’s the financial impact of said dirt. Goodman pushed the fair’s board to utilize the 89-acres of property not just for the fair, but as a venue for the annual Craftsman’s Classic, the Columbia International Festival and USC home football tailgating, just to name a few events.
Then there’s the entertainment that’s stepped foot on that same dirt. Goodman, 69, recalls watching The Judds fight every moment they weren’t onstage. Or the time James Brown’s manager counted every dollar before giving him the greenlight to perform. And as we all know, entertainment takes many forms at the fair.
Goodman says some of the most bizarre things he’s ever witnessed on the fairgrounds involved the numerous animals that appear. He recalls one night shortly after close when an employee got on the radio yelling that a cow had gotten out of the fair’s barn. It quickly escalated into the cow running down the midway...with a fair worker along for the ride. Once they even found the organ grinder’s monkey on top of the Budweiser sign across the street.
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And speaking of odd places to find things, Goodman says the strangest thing he ever found in the lost and found was a set of false teeth.
“They brought a paper cup to me folded over and said “somebody left these on the midway. You might want to take a look,” recalled Goodman.
“That’s the wonder and love I have of this fair,” continued Goodman. “The things I’ve been exposed to and got to see that I would have never gotten to see. The behind the scenes things. Just things that make you say, the world isn’t that bad afterall.”
And if he could trade places with any fair employee for a day?
“I would have loved to have been the person that said, ‘meet your mother at the rocket’. That was one thing when I visited fairs around the country that people would say, I have never heard more people looking for their mama’s than at your fair. So I’d just like to sit there and ask them, ‘Now what happened to your mama? How did you get separated? Was it her fault or yours?’”