by Stacy Jacobson
LADSON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The Exchange Club of Charleston expected 8,000 people to come to the fair the first night. But, over the total 11 days, it expected about 250,000 people to come.
All those people could bring traffic nightmares and a lot of time for fairgoers waiting to park.
As the gates opened Thursday, the Coastal Carolina fair started its 57th run.
Cpl. Bob Beres of the South Carolina Highway Patrol wanted visitors to treat fair traffic like they treat roads on any other fall Saturday.
"Expect a lot of people to come. This is no different than going to a football game," he said.
The Exchange Club expects as many as 60,000 fair visitors on each weekend day. Gates will open this year at 10 a.m. on Saturdays to spread out traffic. But if you can avoid coming on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you may get yourself ahead.
"We come right in on a weekday. We bring them right in," said Chuck Everitt of the Exchange Club's Parking Committee.
The fair has two entrances: One on College Park Road and the other on Highway 78. Beres said peak traffic times will be around 6 p.m., and spots fill up fast. So, the earlier visitors come, the better.
But once parked, the club wants to make it easier for patrons to find their cars later. Volunteers installed new lot signs this year with memorable names like "carousel" and "candy apple." The signs are color-coordinated with the nearest gate.
"The worst thing about leaving the fair is not being able to find your car. We're just trying to make it easier for people to come and enjoy the fair," Everitt said.
The Highway Patrol will have 12 highway troopers staffing the roadways during the duration of the fair. An extra five will be on staff on the weekends.