For the first time since 2009, the Horry County Fair is back, and ready to hop, for 10 days starting Friday at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
Steve Zacharias, general manager of the host site – on U.S. 501, near S.C. 31, about three miles north of Myrtle Beach – said revving up this plan to bring back the fair caps off a quest “going on its third year.” He said this reflects a massive team effort to mount a community hub and celebration geared to residents across Horry County, especially before the tourism season heats up for summer.
Credit for this idea also goes to Zacharias’ children, now ages 10, 8 and 6. He said they were used to going to county fairs in Charlotte, before this ownership group acquired the Speedway, and that upon the family’s move to the Grand Strand, the youngsters asked about the void of a fair here.
Zacharias said the Speedway crew initially tried to set the stage for the fair last year, but Horry County permits for such events covered only seven days’ total, including setup and take-down. He said that window was too tight a time frame for a fair, which he said involves about five days’ assembly on site, and another three days to dissemble, all around the 10-day event proposed.
So, working over several months within parameters, and with changes to county ordinances on the seven-day limitation, the speedway gained approval for the fair’s return this spring.
Zacharias stressed the “family friendly” nature of the fair, “built around locals,” to have the community come out. Finding the right carnival midway operator – Strates Shows Inc. of Orlando, Fla., with decades in the business – took “about eight months,” he said, and this time of year just clicked in both parties’ schedules.
Speaking earlier this week, when some rides packaged in transport containers already had arrived, Zacharias spoke about a centerpiece that Strates Shows had just purchased from Italy.
“You can’t have a fair without a Ferris wheel that is top notch,” he said, loving how this ride will be “every bit of LED lights.”
Seeing “Friday, Saturday and Sunday” marking the “big days” of the fair, Zacharias said outreach to line up participants for both weekends, and the whole week in between, entailed “a lot of phone calls, email and research” to hook up with every possible entity for involvement.
“We’re able to take something trying to get attention and give it attention,” Zacharias said, “for that moment in the sun.”
Having a robotics competition April 17 among various schools marks one example, he said, eager to showcase youth talent.
Helping tout groups’ service, missions
Robert Lutz, the Speedway’s president and chief executive officer, stressed this whole affair as “something for the community,” helping support local businesses, groups and causes, and “bringing out local residents and families to participate.”
Lutz expanded that salute to have the American Red Cross, community watchdog groups, and all public service personnel – including police, fire/rescue and the military – in the spotlight to respective roles, and show “how to get the community involved,” such as with safety tips, reminders for everyone to have a fire escape mapped out in their home or business, how new recruits are found in those services, and “all of these things like that.”
“With county fairs,” Lutz said, “it makes it easier for everyone to give their messages, and for people to learn and understand what they do.”
By involving “everyone in every corner of the county,” Lutz said, “we we to help support their missions and what they’re trying to do.”
Through “making it fun” in this setting, too, he said, a fair becomes an ideal place for groups’ displays, such as 4-H Clubs, and youth exhibiting their animals and plants, “and educating people on how important” these kinds of organizations remain “to the community.”
Amusement with animals won’t end there, with a petting zoo for up-close contact, and Robinson’s Racing Pigs and Paddling Porkers in their own races daily.
Besides daily entertainment, concerts – with access through tickets in addition to fair admission – also are booked in the Speedway’s amphitheater, which has begun making a name for itself the past couple of years, with such guests as N.C. natives Charlie Daniels and Jason Michael Carroll.
Country fans might like Trace Adkins on April 15 and Montgomery Gentry April 23. Appeal for youth and young adults appeal will reign April 16 with Nash Grier and Friends in the afternoon and Mike Posner in the evening. Huey Lewis and the News, some prime pop hitmakers in the 1980s and ’90s, will rock out the night on April 22.
“We’re trying to give something for everyone,” Lutz said, grateful for connections made through Live Nation, the owner of House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, to land these headliners spread over both weekends.
Lutz asked for patience from the public – especially in traffic around the site – as this fair, in its infancy in the Speedway’s hands, grows into an annual tradition, “to make it bigger and better, and more fun and exciting” in coming years.
“We are looking at every way to make it as simple for everyone in the community to come out and enjoy themselves,” he said, hopeful that “people will see the benefits of having the fair” back in the community again – ending the lull since its last hurrah a few years ago at fairgrounds on U.S. 701 near Loris – thanks to so many individuals who “put all these pieces together to make it work.”
Zacharias echoed that sentiment, extending this welcome for “the whole community,” and people of all ages, to “something that we plan on keeping year in and year out.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.
If you go
WHAT: Horry County Fair
WHEN: April 15-24
WHERE: Myrtle Beach Speedway, 455 Hospitality Lane, off U.S. 501, about three miles north of Myrtle Beach, and just past S.C. 31.
HOW MUCH: Daily admission (not including rides) – $5 ages 5-64; $3 ages 65 and older, and anyone with military ID; and free ages 4 and younger.
PARKING: Free on site, with overflow availability nearby at Tanger Outlet Center.
FAIR GATES OPEN:
▪ Noon-11 p.m. April 15-16 and 21-22.
▪ Noon-10 p.m. April 17.
▪ 5-10 p.m. April 18-21.
▪ For final day, April 24, 10 a.m. until closing.
THEMES/SPECIAL EVENTS PER DAY:
▪ “Grand Opening Day,” April 15, with free admission for students 17 and younger until 5 p.m.; and wristbands for unlimited rides $25.
▪ “Family Fun Day,” April 16, with $25 ride wristbands.
▪ “Hospitality Industry Day,” April 17, with free admission until 5 p.m. with presentation of ID for hospitality employment; church service noon; robotics competition 1 p.m. by groups from across county (submissions accepted at www.myrtlebeachspeedway.com/hcfair, or email email@example.com); and $25 ride wristbands.
▪ “$2 Monday Funday,” April 18, with $2 admission for everyone; and ride wristbands $10.
▪ “$10 Dollar Tuesday,” April 19, with ride wristbands $10.
▪ “Education Day and Senior Night,” April 20, with free admission for ages 65 and older; ride wristbands $10; and daytime field trips available 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (before fair opens to public) – email firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ “College Night,” April 21, with free admission with college ID; $10 wristbands; $2 draft beer special 5-7 p.m.; and corn hole tourney 7 p.m.
▪ “Student Day,” April 22, with free admission until 5 p.m. for students ages 17 and younger; and $25 ride wristbands.
▪ “Family Fun Day,” April 23, with free admission until 5 p.m. with proof of hospitality employment; and $25 ride wristbands.
▪ “Food Drive/Crowning of Miss Horry County Fair 2016” – Bring canned food donation for discounts of $2 from general admission for ages 5-64, and $1 off for seniors, military, and ages 4 and younger; beauty pageant 1 p.m.; and $25 ride wristbands.
HEADLINER CONCERTS: Mostly 7:30 p.m., with separate tickets (with respective general admission and “VIP Gold Circle” rates listed, before applicable sales tax and processing fees) in addition to fair admission. Also, amphitheater concert gates open one hour before show:
▪ Trace Adkins, April 15. $25 or $45.
▪ Nash Grier and Friends, featuring Tez Mengestu and Alec Bailey, 3 p.m. April 16. $25 general or parent pass; and meet-and-greet noon-3 p.m. for $129.
▪ Mike Posner, 7:30 p.m. April 16, $20 or $40.
▪ Huey Lewis and the News, April 22. $30 or $50.
▪ Montgomery Gentry (Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry), April 23. $25 or $45.
ALSO, COMING TO SPEEDWAY: 3 Doors Down, 8 p.m. May 5, for $30 or $50.
INFORMATION: 843-236-0500 or www.myrtlebeachspeedway.com/hcfair/