Fair History

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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 those years, the Fair has evolved from a small county fair serving the immediate Charleston area to an operation that reaches the entire Tricounty area and beyond. During its first 32 years, the Fair was owned by 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 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 assumed ownership of the Charleston County Fair with a vision to grow the fair and operate the fair as the Coastal Carolina Empire Fair.

This first fair would continue operations at a location across the street from Johnson-Hagood Football Stadium. In 1958, the Fair leased the grounds owned by the City of Charleston. Just 5 months before the fair opened, the Exhibit Building was destroyed by arson. Because the 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 show would go on.

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. 
In 1959, the Fair made its first move to a 38 acre plot of land at Spruill and Meeting Streets. This 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. After just one year, the Fair leadership realized a better site was needed.
A county-wide search for a new location was started. In 1959, a suitable site was found on Dorchester Road and the Fair entered into a 10 year lease with option to purchase. Realizing that the new site would need additional funds for buildings, fencing and other necessary work, the Fair Board approached financial institutions seeking to borrow needed funds. To secure the loan, ten anonymous Club members stepped forward and committed their personal finances to the bank should the Fair be unable to meet its obligations. The Fair had many successful years on Dorchester Road, and numerous obstacles over the years did not stop the fair. Unfortunately, the building of I-526 forced another move.
In 1979, the Coastal Carolina Fair moved to Ladson, the center of the Tri-county area, where it operates today. Now with more than 180 acres and parking for over 10,000 cars, the Fair has a home that will serve the Tri-county area for years to come. The best is yet 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. Since its beginning in 1957, the Exchange Club of Charleston, through its fundraiser the Fair, has provided millions of dollars to hundreds of charities to benefit thousands of our citizens to make the Lowcountry a better place to live and work. For example, one major contribution to our community was to purchase the first home tied to the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge, located at 267 Calhoun Street. The Fair gives back.
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