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Fair History

Early Days of our Fair

Did you know a fair has operated continually in Charleston County since 1924? During these years the fair has evolved from a small county fair serving the immediate Charleston area to an operation that reaches the entire Tri-county area and beyond. During its first 32 years the fair was owned by then the Charleston Agriculture and Industrial Association. During their ownership the fair survived The Great Depression and the most devastating war in our history, World War II.

In 1954, the Exchange Club of Charleston, a club that was established in 1923, began a study to search for a fund-raising activity in an effort to provide funds to local area charities and community service events. For the next two years the club visited fairs and festivals in North Carolina and South Carolina to determine the resources necessary to run such an event. In 1957 the Exchange Club of Charleston (then with a membership of 60 individuals) assumed ownership of the Charleston County Fair with a vision to grow the fair and operated the fair as the Coastal Carolina Empire Fair.

This first fair would continue existing operation at a location across the street from Johnson-Hagood Football Stadium.
In 1958, the fair was leasing the grounds which were owned by the City of Charleston located across the street from Johnson-Hagood Football Stadium. Just 5 months before the fair opened, an the Exhibit Building on those grounds was destroyed by arson.  Because An Exhibit Building was an essential part of a successful fair, Charleston City Council allowed the fair to utilize an area under the bleachers at the stadium. The fair would operate.
A new era for the fair had begun.

A New Carnival

After assuming ownership of the Coastal Carolina Fair in 1957, the Exchange Club of Charleston embarked on a series of improvements.

In 1958, the second year of operation, the Exchange Club decided it would contract with a new carnival operation to provide rides and games for fair patrons. A search began that would take club members throughout South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina to study the carnivals providing services in those states. A visit to the Sumter County Fair led to a meeting with the owners of Amusements of America whose operations encompassed most of the North and Southeast States.

The carnival enjoyed and excellent reputation for providing safe, clean and enjoyable rides to the many fairs it served. A contract was signed that year allowing the routing of their operations to Charleston. This relationship exists to this day with both evolving into one of the largest fairs in a three state area.

The Fair Finds a New Home

For many years, the Fair had a location on Dorchester Road, but the construction of I-526 required the Fair to move in the late 1970s. 
When the fair was purchased from the Charleston Agriculture and Industrial Society, in 1957, it had operated for 32 years on land leased from the City of Charleston across from Johnson-Hagood Stadium. The Coastal Carolina Fair continued the lease through 1958.

In 1959 the fair made its first move to a 38 acre plot of land at Spruill and Meeting Streets. This land in an earlier life had served as a race track. This first move presented an array of obstacles to overcome. The land, while large enough, had no nearby electrical, water, or sewer services. With the fair scheduled to open in early November work was not begun until October to provide utilities. Despite a very wet October the work was done and the fair opened.

This move, one of four, would lead the fair to the community of Ladson where it operates today. Now with more than 170 acres and parking for over 10,000 cars, the fair has a home that will serve the Tri-county area for years to come.

Charitable Purpose

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The Exchange Club of Charleston's purpose for the Coastal Carolina Fair has always been to raise funds for charity.  Many people don't know that one major project for the Exchange Club of Charleston was tied to the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge.  The Exchange Club of Charleston purchased the first home used for that organization's purpose, located at 267 Calhoun Street.
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