In April 1869, 22 years before The State newspaper published its first edition, a statewide fair, rooted in agriculture, opened its gates in Columbia.
The newspaper’s first headline about the fair appeared on Feb. 28, 1891: “The Fair Grounds’ Poultry House is Inadequate.” According to the item, the State Fair Association’s secretary was unhappy with the poultry house as it stood, saying it was “entirely inadequate to meet the demands made upon it.”
But months later, on Sept. 22, 1891, a more in-depth story on the fair entitled “A call for work” sounded a message that, all these years later, still rings true: “Fair week is the great annual festival of Columbia. ... Its importance to the city cannot be exaggerated,” noting the thousands of visitors and boost to business.
Today, the fair is among South Carolina’s largest events, typically drawing more than a half-million people annually to the capital city. The self-supporting nonprofit organization has awarded $3 million in scholarship dollars to students since 1997.
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And, just as important as the dollars is the joy it has brought to generations of South Carolinians who, year after year, come to see, eat, ride – and learn a bit about agriculture.