Gary Goodman has seen a lot in his 24 years with the S.C. State Fair.
“Some of them you can repeat, and some of them you can't,” says Goodman, the fair's general manager.
The fair, which starts Wednesday and runs through Oct. 19, is a place for lovers. That is, if the objects of your affection are music, candy, trinkets, animals, rides and fried food.
The fair also can be calamitous, especially behind the scenes.
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Here are seven moments Goodman was happy to share.
1. The first one
Goodman worked his first fair in 1985 – the first year the grandstand hosted big-name performers. Lee Greenwood and The Judds were the headliners.
“I was standing there talking to a young lady backstage,” Goodman says. “I just noticed she was a nice person, but she had a bad complexion.”
That young lady turned out to be Ashley Judd, then 17. Now she's a beautiful movie star.
2. Bulls on parade
Ten or 12 years ago, Goodman says, a bull got loose from the livestock area.
“We closed all the fences in the farm area. We got him somewhat closed in,” Goodman says.
But the bull still had to release its frustration on something, and it chose a new Ford pickup truck that was improperly parked at a fence near a barn.
“He beat that sucker to a pulp with his head,” Goodman says. “Finally the bull calmed down, and someone was able to put a harness on him.
“We let that bull wear himself out.”
And the fellow who had to drive home in a new piece of twisted metal?
“He was pretty despondent.”
3. Big Shine at …
Big Shine at 9, a fireworks display, was supposed to go off every night at, well, 9.
The problem one year was that the fireworks were set up across George Rogers Boulevard, where RV parking is now.
“One thing we didn't factor into that was the trains,” Goodman says. And as Columbia drivers know too well, there are plenty of trains.
Big Shine at 9 kept getting pushed back to 9:30 … 9:45 … 10:15.
“The fire marshal wouldn't let us shoot the fireworks while the train was going,” Goodman says.
4. Last ride
In 1989, Conklin Shows brought in a double-loop roller coaster that was the largest double-loop in North America at the time. The ride arrived in 28 tractor-trailers.
To build buzz, Goodman rode the coaster while being interviewed by a local TV station. The camera kept rolling as the ride descended into its first loop.
“I don't like rides,” Goodman says. “I will never forget that anguished look as I sat there and tried to look brave.”
Has he gotten on another coaster?
“Nope,” he says. “To each their own.”
Last year, the USC Gamecocks celebrated Military Appreciation Day at the game against Vanderbilt. Unbeknownst to the fair, military jets were scheduled to fly over the stadium.
“The jets went by, and the noise came after,” Goodman says. “We had animals jumping out of the pen, chickens going berserk.
“It was absolute bedlam. It just freaked everyone out.”
On this year's to-do list: Find out if USC has anything special planned for the Oct. 18 game against LSU.
6. Playing in the sand
One of the most pleasing and astonishing sights for fairgoers last year was the sand sculpture at the Brookgreen Gardens entrance.
“That was just a phenomenal creation that people just marveled at,” Goodman says. “It was really something that you'll never forget.”
As you read this, the sand sculptors are working on this year's piece.
In 1987, Goodman saw a calf born at the fair for the first time. So did a lot of school-aged children who were captivated by the sight.
“To see the faces of so many children that were just amazed at what they were watching – it really made an impression on me that that type of experience and education the average child isn't getting.”