The Evolution of the Western Carolina State Fair
During the spring of 1968, the Aiken Jaycees needed a big project in order to raise money for local charities. James Gregory contacted Vernon Spane, a promoter from Columbia, South Carolina. Mr. Spane suggested the Jaycees sponsor a local county fair. Mr. Spane then contacted Irvin Deggeller of Deggeller’s Magic Midways. Approximately a month later the Jaycees met with Mr. Deggeller to discuss just what it would take to put on the fair.
Within a month of the meeting with Mr. Deggeller, a location was chosen (a driving range on Whiskey Road), along with a name, the Aiken Jaycee County Fair. Mr. Deggeller was once again contacted, a contract was signed and a date for the fair was set. The first week in October was chosen, and the Aiken Jaycee County Fair was born.
The next four years proved successful for the Aiken Jaycees and in November, Alan Gregory was tasked into inquiring about the possibility of purchasing the property adjacent to the Aiken Jaycee Building. After several meetings with William Sibley, the Aiken Jaycees voted to borrow the money to purchase the 35 acres of land adjacent to the Jaycee building.
March of 1973, the loan was acquired, and in May of that year the Jaycees broke ground on what would become one of the biggest projects by a Jaycee chapter in the nation. James Gregory, Past President of the Aiken Jaycees and owner of a local grading company, was in charge of the overall building aspects of the fairgrounds, along with the help of members of the chapter. Chapter members working or preparing for the fair in October spent every weekend working toward this goal. Other than operating the heavy equipment, the Jaycees performed all of the work from building the rest rooms to the ticket booths.
In October of 1973 the fair opened with nothing but a dirt midway and a 60’ x 250’ tent for Arts and Crafts and Horticulture. The Jaycees handled the parking, security, ticket gates and even sold tickets for the rides.
The fair grossed $24,000.00 and the chapter was able to pay expenses and have money left to fund some local charities and give a donation to South Carolina Jaycees Camp Hope (a camp for mentally handicapped adults near Clemson).
1973, the Aiken Jaycees elected a Fair Board to oversee the yearly activities of the fair.
1974-1977, the fair continued on a yearly basis without any Capital Improvements.
1978, a new exhibit building was constructed by Stewart Builders of Aiken and was opened that same year. Within the next few years the Jaycees acquired 15 more acres of land to be used for additional fair parking. Don Deggeller also purchased the old Magic Midways from Conclin Shows and continued to provide the midway for the fair.
1980 to 1986, the chapter concentrated on the community needs and made no improvements to the facilities. Over this period $30,000 were given to various agencies throughout Aiken County with the continuing support of the Aiken Jaycee Christmas Shopping Tour and Jaycee Camp Hope.
1987, the Fair Board proposed the construction of new ticket booths and these were put into operation that year.
1988-1993, Reithoffer Shows was chosen as the new Midway provider beginning in 1988. In 1992, the Jaycees started bringing concerts (national acts) to the fair starting with The Bellamy Brothers
1989, a stage was built to accommodate both local and national acts.
1993-2000, the Aiken Jaycees continued to make Capital Improvements to the Fairgrounds in order to bring in bigger national acts. Other Programs put in place to help the fair grow were the Advanced Ticket Sales, Sponsorship Program and the Company Picnic Program.
2001, There were some major discussions made by the Aiken Jaycees and the Fair Board. This was done to accommodate the overwhelming growth of the Fair. The Fair Board and the Jaycee Chapter voted on the new name (Western Carolina State Fair), expanded dates of the fair, additional Capital Improvements, and the signing of a new contracted amusement company, Pugh Shows.
2001, Pugh Shows was the midway provider for one (1) year.
2002-2010, Belle City Amusements was contracted as the midway provider and continued through 2010.
2007, The fair board completed paperwork and applied for 501-3C status.
2008, the 501-3C status was awarded from the IRS and the organization named the Western Carolina State Fair Foundation.
2010, The Aiken Jaycees and the Western Carolina State Fair Foundation voted to separate and the foundation assumed ownership and operation of the fairgrounds and the Western Carolina State Fair.
2011, Reithoffer Shows was contracted to be the new midway provider.
2015, The Western Carolina State Fair Board of Directors voted to extend the contract for Reithoffer Shows to provide the Fair Midway thru 2020.