A fair deal

A sign on Little Richard's fry shack at the Georgia-Carolina State Fair explains this year's price hikes.


"To maintain our high quality of foods and services, we regret in having to raise our prices."

Owners say costs went up on fuel, paper supplies, frying oil, flour and insurance.

So it's not your imagination.

Prices are higher everywhere, including the fair, at a time when many families are spending less on luxuries.

But you can still have your fair share of fun.

The Augusta Chronicle visited the Georgia-Carolina State Fair in Augusta and the Western Carolina State Fair in Aiken to see how far $20 could be stretched. We were determined to pay our way in and find food, games, rides and attractions for $20 or less. Here's how we did it.

Western Carolina State Fair

The Strategy: Plan to stay the evening: A $6 ticket also includes admission to concerts and events, including the demolition derby.

First things first: Right inside the front gate is the cheapest attraction of all: JoJo, a 5-year-old capuchin monkey who, for a quarter, will shake your hand or give it a kiss.

It's more interesting and sanitary than it sounds.

For a dollar, the little guy's trainer will give you a picture.

Do some good: We ran across a group of firefighters collecting money for a new roof on their station. We gave $1 and took the opportunity to pose for a picture wearing a fireman's helmet.

Rat roulette: It was the oddest thing, placing a bet on a rat. But that's what you do at this game. We put two quarters down - one on gray and one on green - and bet that a rat named Fat Albert would pick one of those colors when his trainer whirled him about and released him onto a rat-friendly roulette wheel.

He picked pink.

Shoot 'em up: I decided to try a game that depended less on the whims of a rat, settling on a shooting game that seemed to have the biggest potential to win a prize.

A carnie gave me a few tips before I embarrassed myself shooting out less than half of that little red star. He suggested shooting around the mark, instead of right at it. His mistake was assuming I'd hit the paper. I didn't, at least not at first.

We spent $3 for 100 shots.

Free: Short of the exhibit hall, where we snagged free pens and cups and took advantage of free face painting, there wasn't one freebie we saw that didn't involve animals.

Ham Bone Express features pig races every hour and a petting zoo. Still, it's worth springing for a cup of feed for $1.

Another $1 also gained us entry into an old-time freak show to see a 1,200-pound hog. Interesting, but we probably should have given that dollar to the firemen.

Round and round: The ferris wheel was five tokens (at 75 cents apiece, that's $3.75), so we settled on the merry-go-round, at $2.25 for three tokens. Bumper cars cost $3.

Ride fanatics: Instead of fiddling with individual tokens, we could have just blown the whole $20 on a mega pass for unlimited rides. But it would leave us with a rather short story, plus no money for the real highlight of the fair - the food.

Cheap eats: We lusted after $5 funnel cakes topped with powdered sugar and strawberries, but settled on something that would deliver a bit more variety and nutrition (however slight) for our money.

One booth without prices posted was willing to barter - they quoted $3.50 for a caramel apple and $3 for a lemonade, but gave us both for $5.

It was a deal. We took the sweets and headed over to the free concert at the Bridgestone-Firestone Arena.

Georgia-Carolina State Fair

The strategy: Save money by taking advantage of an admission special.

Daily Admission Specials: Ages 18 and older get in free today with any nonwinning Georgia Lottery Ticket. From 5 to 7 p.m. today and Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, students 13 and older get in free with the purchase of a $15 unlimited ride armband. On the weekend, ages 12 and younger get free admission with the purchase of a $10 unlimited ride ticket. There's also free admission on Sunday if you bring a church bulletin, or are 55 or older.

Free: Freebies are harder to find here, so we didn't turn down anything, including the Gideon Bible given to fifth- through 12th-graders.

BP also set up a small city of tents, where we posed for pictures on a surfboard simulator, pretended to rock climb and faked the finish to a marathon.

For our efforts, we were allowed to pick a free T-shirt or water bottle emblazoned with BP logos. Photos can be retrieved online for free in a few days.

The animal-themed amusement continued here, too, with a free show from Wambold's Amazing Animals.

The food: The cheapest can all be had for $3, including deep-fried Moon Pies, fried Twinkies, fried Snickers bars and chocolate-dipped marshmallow with sprinkles.

Expect to pay $5 for drinks, and up to $11 for the combo meals most booths sell.

Ride 'em: Tokens are $1, or $15 for an unlimited rides wristband. Most rides require multiple tokens. We decided it'd be best not to find out how many, considering all the deep-fried somethings that were just consumed.

Play to win: All the grown-up games are pricey, so tag along with your kid or find a sympathetic carnie who will let you play along with the rest of the kiddies.

I looked stupid, but for $2, I won a little stuffed bear after fishing from the toilet-water blue pond of the Fish Matic.

You could win a real goldfish for $1, but stuffed animals are more my style.

Later on, I tried a basketball game for two balls for $2.

The carnie suggested I put some spring in my step. I suggested he just give me the prize.

He took pity on me after two air balls and let me play a second game for free.

Lesson learned: There is no prize for four consecutive air balls.

Reach Kelly Jasper at (706) 823-3552 or kelly.jasper@augustachronicle.com.



Wed, 12/13/2017 - 21:35

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