Meet Me at the Rocket
Rodger E. Stroup,
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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Geschichte
Who doesn't love the bustle and jangle, the smells, the sounds, the energy, and the tastes of a lively state fair? In this fast-changing world, keeping any endeavor alive and thriving for 150 years is an accomplishment, but the South Carolina State Fair has met any challenges with doggedness, determination, and flair.
In the early 1700s South Carolinians were gathering to exchange information about crops and livestock, and small rural fairs were held, enhanced by horse racing, raffles, and other diversions to draw in the populace. The State Agricultural Society of South Carolina was founded in 1839 and held its first annual fair and stock show in November of the following year. In 1869 the State Agricultural and Mechanical Society of South Carolina was founded to revive the fair and has presented a fair in every year except 1918. The South Carolina State Fair has a long and storied history from those early days to its current "meet me at the rocket" days. Those initial fair goers would have been astonished to see the rocket, a Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile, greeting them as they arrived on the grounds.
The long story of the fair is inextricably bound to the history of South Carolina, of course, and indeed the history of the United States. Stroup ably weaves many strands together through archival records, newspaper reports, anecdotes (have you heard about the "Schara-mouche-Dance by a person from London?") and vintage artifacts, illustrations, paintings, and photographs from the fair's inception to the present. The fair has been an admixture of serious agricultural and animal husbandry and pure entertainment—the scandalous as well as the wholesome, and Stroup investigates them all, from the "Colored State Fair" to the infamous "girlie shows" to the prizes won for livestock—and touches on characters as diverse as Preston Brooks and Seabiscuit.
As lively and entertaining as a state fair itself, Meet Me at the Rocket is as thorough a history of an important state institution as can be found. Buy a cotton candy, visit the exhibits, ride the merry-go-round, and enjoy this singular exploration of South Carolina's agriculture and industry, its science and art and history.
A foreword is provided by Walter Edgar, the Neuffer Professor of Southern Studies Emeritus and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina. He is the author of South Carolina: A History, editor of The South Carolina Encyclopedia, and host of the radio program Walter Edgar's Journal.
Jupiter, South Carolina, animals, ferris wheel, rural, rocket, state fair, agriculture, livestock