Bill Prowant and his wife, Anissa, have been in the fair circuit for a long time.

“I was born in the business,” Bill Prowant said while preparing for the 110th Orangeburg County Fair. “When I was 17, my father sent me out with a route and some amusement rides. I have been doing this since 1979.”

Prowant is the third generation of his family to be in the fair traveling circuit. The Prowant family has been in the fair business since 1932.

Prowant  ended up getting out of the amusement ride business when he entered into a partnership with Orangeburg County Fair legends Jerry and Glenda Price about seven years ago. The Prices are Fiske Fries vendors.

The Prices are the second generation of the Fiske French Fries business. Grandma and Grandpa Fiske started the business in 1938 and have been coming to the Orangeburg County Fair ever since.

“This is the first fair she ever booked,” Prowant said, referring to Grandma Fiske. “She came up with the way of cooking these fries which is sort of a unique way.”

“We are not allowed to share that with anybody, but our fries come out golden brown and they are crispy,” Prowant said. “They don’t lose their crispiness. We probably have the best tasting fries of any fry trailer on any fairgrounds in the United States.”

Over the years the fries have not significantly changed. About 90% of the potatoes are grown in Ohio and they are oh so good!

“They (people) love the fries,” Anissa said. “The other thing about the people is that this year everybody is just so happy to be out.”

Bill said, “It is fun to watch people and in this business you do a lot of watching of people.”

“It is is fun to watch them introduce new babies and husbands and wives in the last year have gotten married,” he said. “We have made great friends along the way.”

Anissa said especially in Orangeburg, where they have befriended the Netterfields and the Class families.

Orangeburg County Fair one of S.C.’s oldest

“We see them in the spring but we don’t see them until now,” Anissa said.

“You can compare stories with each other and you find out that maybe we didn’t have it so bad sometimes,” Bill said. “Most of the people out here are good family people and a lot of them have been in this business like us for close to 90 years and some more. There is a lot of history and a lot of family history.”

“You can go back generations, so when you get together, it is always a good time,” Bill said.

In addition to Fiske Fries, the couple also have a deep fried sweets booth.

From Orangeburg, the Prowants and Fiske Fries go onto the South Carolina State Fair where Fiske has had a presence since the early 1940s. They are also heading to the Coastal Carolina Fair.

Fair challenges

Bill said the most drastic change in the fair business, especially this year, has been labor shortages.

“It is not quite as fun as what it used to be,” Bill said. “I think that goes for any business that is out there. When you are in this business, it has gotta sorta be a labor of love.”

“That is sort of the way we felt about this and we still do now but it is getting harder along with the shortage of food products and the shortage of labor,” Bill said. “It is getting very hard to keep things going.”

Bill said labor shortages have been “coming on the last several years but COVID has definitely hurt a lot.”

Anissa said another issue they are dealing with is increasing government regulation.

“There are many taxes that are involved in our industry that are different from others,” she said. “Our industry covers a lot of transportation costs with different states and different regulations. Workers comp. There are just many.”

Bill said the biggest shortage they are dealing with is plastic cups, as well as flour and batter mixes.

“They can’t be found,” Anissa said.

Bill said the couple have a large warehouse in Ohio where they have been stockpiling supplies in order to get through the fair season. 

“We think we have enough to get through,” he said. “The fair season so far has been tremendous. The crowds have just been great. We were not ready for that. We had no idea in May what the year would bring. We have been pleasantly surprised.”

Bill said the couple keep coming back to Orangeburg County for a couple of reasons.

“This is a nice county fair,” he said. “The management here does a great job. They have great rides. It has the hometown feeling, which a lot of fairs lack. It is always a pleasure to come here.”

“The people from South Carolina are so friendly,” Anissa said.

The Prowants are just one of the food vendors that will be present at the Orangeburg County Fair.

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Other favorites that will be present include Netterfield’s. The Netterfields have been coming to the fair for at least the past five decades.

Sweet treats like cotton candy, caramel apples, ICEEs, lemonade shake-ups and soft drinks will be available. For those wanting a salty snack, popcorn, corn dogs, pizza, soft pretzels, nachos and more are offered.

Lunch will be available at the fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free for lunch hours.

In-person fair is back!

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After having a drive-thru fair in 2020 due to COVID, the traditional in-person fair is back on schedule.

It is scheduled from Tuesday, Oct. 5, through Sunday, Oct. 10.

“We are excited and very fortunate to be able to continue this great yearly tradition,” Orangeburg County Fair President Matt Stokes said, thanking both city and county councils for their support of the fair.

The event will also bring with it new protocols to ensure the safety of all attendees.

The fair will be COVID safe.

Hand-sanitizer stations and handwashing stations will be available throughout the fairgrounds, according to the fair’s website.

Cashless payment options are available and encouraged.

Social distancing will also be strongly encouraged, especially during times of prolonged possible exposure such as lines, in exhibits, in showrooms and restrooms.

Individuals will be required to wear face coverings while attending the fair in order to abide by the City of Orangeburg’s mask mandate.

The ordinance requires masks to be worn in large gatherings in the city. The fair does qualify as a large gathering.

The fair staff will increase facility cleaning, including bathrooms and frequent public touchpoints. Hygiene signage will be placed throughout the fair.

Despite the precautions, fair-goers are reminded by fair officials that they do attend at their own risk. Individuals are encouraged to evaluate their own health risks to determine whether they are comfortable attending the fair.

Attendees are asked to self-check for COVID-19 symptoms before visiting the fair.

Also new this year, attendees will have to abide by a mandatory clear bag policy.

“This policy is similar to those implemented throughout the state, complying with a new level of security expected of large, heavily attended events and festivals,” the fair’s website states.

Approved bags will include clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bags that do not exceed 14 inches by 6 inches by 14 inches in size. A logo no larger than 4.5 inches by 3.4 inches can be displayed on one side of the clear bag.

One-gallon clear plastic freezer Ziploc bags are allowed. Small clutch bags about the size of an average hand as well as medically necessary items are also allowed.

Prohibited bags include purses, backpacks, camera cases, drawstring bags, fanny packs, tinted bags, tote bags, mesh bags, briefcases, luggage and computer bags.

Fair admissions

Admission is $10 with children under 10 free. Parking is free.

Metal detectors will be in place and persons with a handicap will use the main entrance of the fair.

Ride ticket prices include:

  • Single ticket: $1.50
  • Sheet of 22 tickets: $20
  • Unlimited ride wristband: $25

The Magic Maze and Bungee Jump are cash only. No wristbands or tickets are available for these attractions. Rides require three to five tickets each. There are no refunds on wristbands.

Senior day will be Wednesday and kindergarten and daycare days will be Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There will also be various giveaways for fair attendees in honor of the 110th birthday of the fair.

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North Carolina-based Powers & Thomas Midway Entertainment will return to present the midway. The company also served the 2019 fair.

Some of the newer rides for the midway will be the Flying Elephants and Tea Cups. 

The company also provides a 1957 Chevy-themed, Italian-built Swing Buggy thrill ride. Swing Buggy is a spectacular music ride that features free swinging ride vehicles that move up and down the hills and valleys of the ride.

Built in Italy, the Bertazzon Swing Buggy is the only Italian “Bobs” style ride traveling in the USA, according to company officials. The Swing Buggy runs in forward and reverse for an added thrill.

Also new this year will be a mechanical bull.

There are also numerous other rides that will be available for young and old alike.

Entertainment at the fair includes Lew E the Clown; Oscar the Robot; Dr. Magical Balloons; Magic of Lance Gifford and Company; Cowboy Circus with Danny Grant.

Also, the Five Star petting zoo and agricultural exhibit will be on hand.

Concessions will include favorites such as Tracy’s Elephant Ears, Netterfield’s, Gator Bites, cinnamon rolls, ice cream and Fiske Fries. Players Barbecue will make their first appearance at the fair.

There will be plenty of contests, including fancy works and crafts, art exhibit, field crops and horticulture, food conservation, quilts, 4-H backyard poultry, goat project show, market lamb show, youth market hog show, youth beef cattle and youth dairy show.

The fair has a nearly 50 sponsors, including Netterfield’s Popcorn and Lemonade Inc.; Orangeburg Coca-Cola Bottling Company; South Carolina Surgical, which are all diamond sponsors.

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