The lights and action of the midway return to Columbia County on Thursday with the opening of the 41st annual Columbia County Fair.
The Merchants Association of Columbia County will open the gates of the Columbia County Fairgrounds on Columbia Road at 5 p.m. with a special $1 night, in which admission and select games, rides and food each cost only a buck. The fair runs through Nov. 11 and though admission prices vary by night, parking is free.
Drew Expositions, operator of the midway for the past four years, returns fan-favorite rides such as the Hammer, the Himalaya and the Century Wheel and will add its tallest ride ever, the Mega Drop. The new attraction shoots riders up a 160-foot tower and follows that with a 150-foot free-fall.
"Most of all Drew's rides are like Six Flags rides," said Mike Zapata, the chairman of the fair and a past Merchants Association president. "He's got some pretty impressive rides."
Also added this year is a brand new Extreme K-9 stunt show. Two additions from last year -The Bear Mountain Show and the area talent show Apollo Night - also will return for a second time, Zapata said.
"People asked if we could get (the bear show) back this year," he said. "It was a real successful show last year. People really enjoyed it."
Other fair standards such as human cannonball David "The Bullet" Smith, 4-H exhibits, crafts, live music and the petting zoo, return nightly. Prizes go to the top performers of the Apollo Night competition, and those who are interested in showcasing their talent must register in advance by calling (706) 860-8600.
Zapata said the atmosphere and excitement of the fair brings families back year after year.
"We've got a good family, wholesome atmosphere here," he said.
Each year, The Columbia County Fair is the largest fundraiser for the Merchants Association, which supports charities such as the Columbia County Foundation for Children, the Red Cross, Southeastern Firefighters Burn Foundation, Columbia County Cares and the Children's Miracle Network. The organization also finances scholarships for Columbia County students.
The 10-day event drew more than 40,000 visitors last year, and Zapata said he expects an even larger turnout this year.
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