Rocket, Sand Sculpture part of State Fair Traditions

Oct 16, 2018

October brings many things to South Carolina - more football, turning leaves, cooler temps (we hope!).  And one of the fall's most anticipated events is the South Carolina State Fair.  Long-time fairgoers have established many traditions they associate with the fair, but "meeting at the rocket" must be at the top of nearly everyone's list.  The rocket, according to fair General Manager Nancy Smith, is actually a long-range intermediate range ballistic missle built in the 1960s and designed by legendary rocket engineer Wehrner von Braun.  It was named Columbia, and was eventually donated to the city of Columbia and erected at the state fairgrounds in 1969.   For nearly a half-century, the imposing structure has been a meeting spot for parents and children, friends and other fairgoers.  

Near the beginning, a dinosaur begins to emerge from a frame packed with sand.
Credit Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

But the rocket is by no means the only tradition at the fair.  Another long-time favorite is the sand sculpture, which sculptress Brandi Glenn and her husband have created - with a new theme each year - for two dozen years.  She says  there are many kinds of sand, and only certain ones are good for sculpting.  She gets a lot of questions while they make their artworks, the most common of which is "what keeps the sand from falling apart?"  (Answer:  wetting the right kind of sand and packing it tight will actually help it harden as it dries)

Smith says people have fond memories associated with the rocket - some got their first kiss there, some met their future spouses there, or even married near the rocket.  The rocket has seen many things over the years and Smith says she can't imagine the fair without it.  But she's not in danger of finding out.  Glenn added that she can't imagine doing her unique job without doing it annually at the State Fair.  Between these traditions and more, it seems the State Fair has become the home to icons of the Palmetto State.