There’s nothing quite like a state fair.
Where else can a band play for thousands of fans before stepping off stage for a funnel cake and a few rides, said Colt Ford, the country recording artist who appears at the Western Carolina State Fair on Friday, Oct. 21.
The 10-day event kicks off Thursday, Oct. 20, in Aiken with several new additions to the fair lineup.
On Thursday night, Jeff Pike and the A1A Band bring their Jimmy Buffet tribute show to the Bridgestone Arena Main Stage. A pre-concert party starts at 6 p.m.
On Friday, Nick Malloy opens for Ford, an Athens, Ga., native who was nominated for his first Country Music Association Award in September. In November, Ford will find out whether Dirt Road Anthem, a song he wrote for friend and fellow country music star Jason Aldean, has won the CMA Song of the Year.
All arena events including concerts are free with admission to the fair.
Fairs, Ford said, are some of the best events he plays.
“We play so many different places, from backyards to amphitheaters to arenas,” Ford said. “I love fairs because I see so many kids who are fans of what I do.”
Fans should come with high expectations, he added.
“I’ve got one of the best live bands you’ll ever hear,” Ford said. “It’s full-throttle. Everything we play, you can feel the energy.”
Ford’s show won’t be the only high-energy event this year, said Michael Dennis, president of the Western Carolina State Fair.
The Demolition Derby comes to the Bridgestone Arena on three separate nights: Oct. 26, 27 and 29.
Each starts at 7 p.m. On the second day of the derby, Oct. 27, the fair hosts its Ugly Redneck Truck competition. It was so popular last year that the competition returns for a second year, Dennis said. Entry forms are available online.
The fair, as always, includes exhibits, food, the Circle C Petting Zoo, more than 40 rides from Reithoffer Shows, including a new Wild Mouse Coaster, Tornado and Freak Out, and a kiddy land.
This year, however, also features the first Kid’s Firefighter Training Show.
The demonstration plays off kid’s natural curiosity about firefighters to teach them a little about fire safety, Dennis said.
Using simulated flames and nontoxic smoke, volunteers teach kids from the audience how to crawl under smoke in case of fire, how to lay out fire hose, and operate a fire extinguisher.
“It’s something new,” Dennis said. “It’s like a basic fire safety class for kids, but entertaining.”
At the end, the kids who win a fire fighting competition have the chance to turn a water cannon on audience members. This water cannon, however, only shoots paper streamers. Shows are at 6 and 8 p.m. during the week and 3, 6 and 8 p.m. on weekends.