The Sumter American Legion Fair opens officially on Tuesday, with the popular Reithoffer midway rides and games, expanded entertainment schedule, fair foods, art, flower and craft shows, animals and lots more. Nick Nero, fair co-manager with Mel Curtis and Peter St. Onge, said this year's fair, which runs Tuesday through Oct. 1, will have most of its traditional features, plus added entertainment.
"Reithoffer has proved to be very popular with fair goers," he said. "They've told us they like it because it's cleaner, neater and well laid out, and the ride operators are all clean cut, wearing uniforms. In fact, they have had nothing but praise for the Reithoffer midway."
In addition, Nero said Reithoffer has a good selection of kiddy rides and that there will be no height limitation for kids on them this year.
"Their parents will even be allowed to ride with them," he said, "making the fair even more family friendly."
Reithoffer's rides for older children and adults will be as exciting as always, he said, with the traditional rides and some newer ones.
"They always bring a couple of their new Spectacular rides, too," Nero said. "We don't know what they will be yet, but they always are really spectacular."
Reithoffer always brings several "Thrill" rides and attractions, many of them, as well as the Spectaculars, only found in their midway. With names like Stinger, Tornado, Zero Gravity, Ring of Fire and Pharaoh's Fury, they're all bound to be pretty thrilling.
In the Fair Memorial Building, the Art and Flower Shows will boast work by local artists and arrangements by skilled flower designers, most members of Sumter's garden clubs. The theme for this year's flower show is "Sumter Little Theatre Plays," so flower lovers could see designs based on such shows as "Cabaret," "The Full Monty" and maybe even "La Cage aux Folles," the closing musical for the 2017-18 season.
Nero said the petting zoo will be "extra large. It will fill all the pens in the Swine Barn, and we'll have a country band playing on a stage in the cattle barn."
He said there will be "baby animals in the Swine Barn show ring, so the kids can interact with them."
The poultry building will house the Silver Bells and Daffodil crafters, whose work will totally fill the area, Nero said.
Also entertaining will be magician and hypnotist Lance Griffin, who's at the fair for his third year. Griffin's shows always draw a big crowd, and he often brings volunteers up on stage to assist him.
Carolina Helicopter Tours will be back to take fair goers up and over the city and such spots as Swan Lake, said fair co-manager Peter St. Onge. The helicopter will take off and land from the fairgrounds proper this year, Nero said. fee for the helicopter will start at $20.
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources will have its "shooting range trailer" set up near the Farmers Market, where the Outdoor Sportsmen's Expo will have exhibits of all sorts of sporting equipment. The 40-foot-long shooting range will allow fair goers to test their marksmanship by shooting at targets with "soft air guns," Nero said, "and it will be free."
Other entertainment will include the Great American Pig Races and K9s in Flight, which features rescue dogs who have been trained to do spectacular jumps and tricks. These "homeless to high-flying" dogs demonstrate that adopted dogs often form a special bond with their people and can learn new tricks.
The On the Edge 2-Wheel Action Shows feature motorcyclists performing "gymnastics on wheels ... on a monstrous obstacle course," according to its website.
Inside the Sumter County Civic Center, located on the fairgrounds, will be the usual home arts such as canning and baked goods, fancy work and "a big quilt show," Nero said, as well as agriculture, which includes fruits, vegetables, watermelon and more.
The fair beauty pageant, directed by Michelle Coker Hodge, will take place Sept. 30 in the civic center. Entries must be submitted by Thursday, Sept. 28. For more information and application forms, visit the website http://www.sumterfair.com/Pageant.html or call Hodge at (803) 491-4914.
Admission to the Sumter American Legion Fair for two people is $8 with a buy-one-get-one-free special on opening day, Tuesday only, with the sticker from the front page of either the today's or Tuesday's edition of The Sumter Item. Senior citizens and military with ID pay $5 each day, and early bird admission is $5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. any day. A ride-all-day pass purchased by Monday is $20, but $25 other days.
Get advance tickets from Piggly Wiggly, SAFE, SEACO Music, Tanners Highway 15 South, IGA and Bojangles on 15 South.
Proceeds from admission fees benefit American Legion Post #15, which supports Boy Scout Troop 339, Cub Scout Troop 339, P-15's Baseball and Legion Riders.
Learn more about the many other featured events and exhibits at www.sumterfair.com.