Tracy’s Elephant Ears, an Orangeburg County Fair tradition, will fry its last dough when the fair closes Sunday.

Operators Harriett Vernum and Tracy Brewer of Branchville have been elephant ear vendors for over 40 years, but the fair will be their last stop before selling the booth and moving to New York State, Vernum said.

They’ve been a welcome sight at fairs, mud bogs and gas stations across the East Coast, but the Orangeburg fair was where they got their start. Both worked at William Lordy’s stand for several years, Brewer said.

“I’m gonna miss it very much,” Brewer said. “We’ve had a very good living off of it and the Orangeburg fair has always been very special to us.”

Brewer and Vernum – who both go by “Tracy” to customers – announced on their Facebook page that the fair would be their last appearance. Since then, the post has received hundreds of reactions, comments and shares.

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Vernum said the post was an example of how the Orangeburg community has supported them.

“In that aspect, we’re gonna miss it a lot, but it’s just time for a change,” she said.

“We’ve been doing it for a long time. And, you know, life is short. We want to have other adventures than this. That’s the main reason.”

Many customers have asked the two why they’ve decided to leave.

“Cause we’re tired ma’am. That’s the short answer,” Vernum answered one woman.

The lifestyle of running an elephant ear stand is difficult, Brewer said, and they’ve decided it’s time to move on.

Moving to New York will allow them to be closer to Vernum’s family, she said. The two might open a food truck there.

They will share their “secret, ancient recipe” with the buyer of the elephant ear stand, Vernum said.

Sandra Sellers and her two daughters follow Tracy’s to fairs and other spots in the community.

“I’m gonna miss Tracy – I know that’s not her name,” she said, laughing.

“She’s very friendly. That makes you come back. You know, when you have good customer service, it makes you come back. And elephant ears are good.”

Even though Tracy’s Elephant Ears will be no more, Brewer and Vernum said it’s important people continue to support the fair and its other vendors.

“Even if you don’t come out and support us at the fair, come out and support the county fair because it’s really important,” Vernum said. “If the people don’t come out and support it, it’s gonna be a thing of the past. Many county fairs all over the country have shut down because their communities don’t support them.”

This was echoed by Tim Lisko of the fair’s new ride vendor, Lisko Family Amusements Inc., who said Orangeburg’s offerings are better than many other fairs that have done away with animal and crop exhibits or even stopped operating altogether.

“Come on out and enjoy it,” he said. “It’s been beautiful weather, can’t complain about the weather. It’s warm today but at night it’s comfortable.”

The fair runs through Sunday, Oct. 8 at the Orangeburg County Fairgrounds at 350 Magnolia Street.

The fair has seen higher attendance compared to last year, Marketing Director Ashley Bryan said.

The new ride vendor, Ohio-based Lisko Family Amusements Inc., brought three times more rides than were available last year, Bryan said. It brought a pirate ship ride and “Carnage,” both of which flip riders upside down and have been very popular, she said.

There are also plenty of gentler rides for children and less daring riders.

“It’s been very successful,” Bryan said. “We’ve had a great turnout.”

The fair is also debuting a new chaperone policy this year for anyone under 16. Children and chaperones will be given matching wristbands with the adult’s phone number at a booth at the front gate. The lines have been moving quickly, Bryan said.

“It’s actually been running rather smoothly,” she said. “Really it’s for the safety of the younger children. It’s not ‘Oh no, kids can’t come’ or anything like that. But if someone gets lost, we know exactly who we can call, because the number is on the wristband.

“So it’s no different than really a Chuck E. Cheese, making sure that the right kid goes home with the right person. It’s just another way that we can ensure the safety of our youth.”

There haven’t been many complaints about the policy, other than “a couple of 16-year-olds who just got their license who can’t come in on their own,” Bryan said.

After some issues last year, the fair has rebounded, she said.

“It was sort of just like a series of unfortunate events,” she said. “So we decided to step up this year.”

The fair features live entertainment and exhibits, including those by the 4-H club, which expanded its presence at the fair, Orangeburg and Calhoun County 4-H Youth Development Agent Laura Hair said.

Local 4-H students have always participated in the fair’s animal exhibits, but this year they’ve entered crops and arts and crafts as well, she said. She said the increased face time with 4-H ambassadors would hopefully bring kids into the organization.

“4-H is all about youth development, so we want to see kids in leadership roles,” Hair said. “I think with especially the younger kids coming out here for the fair and seeing those older kids, they see that they’re doing things for the community and that they can have fun in 4-H.”

Children attending the fair – including the 4,000 coming in school groups – can watch live science demonstration shows, see a camel and other animals in the petting zoo or admire the 200-pound watermelon grown by Orangeburg’s Brandon Huber.

The fair also has more food vendors than last year, Bryan said.

Lakin Tucker said the food was a highlight of her first time at the fair and worth the drive from Columbia.

“The corn dogs are really good,” she said. “The cheese curds are really good, the fries are good.”

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Contact the writer: or 803-533-5553. Follow on Twitter: @bozardcaleb.

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