At a time when most other agricultural fairs have already run their course, the Spartansburg Fair will provide one last burst of summertime activity when it returns this Saturday.
The fair board and its volunteers have been hard at work all year getting ready for the grand unveiling of the fairground’s new horse show arena. According to Spartansburg Fair Secretary Connie Sitterley, the arena features a bigger announcer’s booth, new lighting and several changes to the seating.
“We cemented under the bleachers, so people don’t have to walk in the mud anymore if it rains,” Sitterley said before laughing. “Which it isn’t going to do.”
Those interested in checking out the new arena will get their chance with the annual horse show that helps kick off the fair this Saturday. While not technically part of the fair’s activities, Sitterley said the event unofficially is considered by many to be one of the major events of the Spartansburg Fair. The show will have a later start time this year, beginning at 5 p.m. instead of in the morning as usual.
While the new horse arena may be the big reveal of the year, Spartansburg Fair Vice President Margie Martin said things should otherwise seem very similar to past fairs.
“It’s just pretty much the regular this year,” Martin said.
There have been some small changes. The floral department added a category for patio plants and dish gardens this year, while kids now have their own separate category for the maple syrup displays.
However, Martin said it isn’t major events or big name concerts that draw people to the Spartansburg Fair year after year, but something more homegrown.
“It’s like a big family reunion,” she said. “People come back and some people even use vacation time to come and visit with friends and family.”
Sitterley said that many of the Spartansburg Fair’s regular attendants don’t go to any other fairs during the year. The fair, according to her, has a different feel than most, especially as its scheduled for the start of the fall rather than the middle of the summer.
“It’s just what you do in September in Spartansburg,” Sitterley said.
Although the September start time means that kids are in school during the weekday, Sitterley said this has its advantage. When the kids are away, people are able to visit the fair during quieter hours, and get a chance to see the animals and exhibits without having to worry about larger crowds.
That isn’t to say the fair is devoid of excitement, however. Another change to this year’s schedule is the all-day riding times on Monday and Saturday.
Usually, the riding periods on those days are broken up into two sections. Now, people can buy a ride ticket at the start of the day, and go on the various attractions until the close of the fair that night.
Sitterley said that the fair’s ride company, Lisko Family Midway Amusements, has added a few larger rides this year, though she hasn’t gotten a chance to see them yet.
A returning feature that was new last year are the helicopter rides held on the last day of the fair, from noon to 5 p.m. Sitterley said the helicopter trips, which go over the fairgrounds and parts of Spartansburg, were “very popular” last year.
“We had people still waiting in line when it was too dark for them to run anymore,” she said.
Fans of rabbits can look forward to an expanded number of animals this year. A 4-H group was added to the rabbit contests this year, which Sitterley said accounted for almost 60 additional rabbits competing this year.
Martin finds herself most looking forward to the fireworks show that closes out the fair. However, she found herself having a hard time describing exactly what she liked most about the bombastic display.
“Our fireworks are awesome,” she said. “They’re just good. They’re very good.”
There will also be the annual parade and 5K run/walk, with the former starting on Main Street in Spartansburg and heading into the fair, while the latter begins at the fair entrance.
A trio of musical acts will hold concerts during the later days of the fair. Sitterley said the fair booked some locally well known acts, rather than going after more widely recognized talent.
“Yeah, Garth Brooks is not coming to the Spartansburg Fair,” Sitterley said with a laugh.
However, she said the band Refuge, who will perform Thursday, is very well known in the area and is a returning act for the Spartansburg Fair. Joining them will be blue grass band Concord Station, who will perform Sept. 6, and RadioActive, who will play the last concert on Sept. 7.
This year’s fair is the 98th iteration of the event, and the fair board has already begun making plans for the big 100th anniversary coming up. Sitterley said there wasn’t many details the board could give out now, but confirmed they are “planning on making it a party.”
The Spartansburg Fair unofficially begins Saturday with the horse show, while the fair’s full start will be Sunday. Fairground buildings open daily, starting at 9 a.m.
Ray can be reached, by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.