COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The day after the South Carolina State Fair ended, dozens of lost-and-found items dropped from rides or left behind all in the excitement of food booths and carnival games are strewn in an office behind a vacant corn dog stand.
The leftovers from the 12-day event that attracted some 400,000 visitors include a wide assortment of single shoes and sandals (including a thigh-high boot), a pile of stuffed animals, a large handful of cellphones and a huge box with sets of keys.
They were joined by a wheelchair, a stroller, a giant teddy bear and a TV remote.
Fair Guest Services Director Howard Still and his team have gathered the unclaimed items and work to return what’s left of the collection that looks like an impromptu garage sale.
Most lost-and-found items are returned while the fair is open, but each year a number of items are left behind when the final Tilt-A-Whirl ride rolls to a stop and the last funnel cake gets covered in powdered sugar.
Some lost items are expected as visitors spin on rides like they are in washing machines and things fall out of pockets and pocketbooks.
“I really don’t know how you lose a wheelchair,” Still said. “But somehow it happens almost every year.”
Still has recovered an oxygen tank, a bed pillow and a set of dentures in recent years.
“We had a lady that just came up and said her and her husband had been here and he was missing his bottom plate to his dentures.” Still said. “Well, we gave them back to her. But, about 30 minutes later, she comes back to the window, she hands them to us and says, ‘These did not fit. They’re not his.’”
Guest services crews walk the 104-acre fairgrounds every morning to find lost items, Still said. Most are picked up underneath rides and tables near food vendors, he said.
Fair Marketing Director Kathy Allen said she will get messages on social media asking for the staff to go to specific rides to look for lost items. She said the staff “has just about seen it all.”
Then, the crew gets to work tracking down owners.
“We’ve got some experts that are good at finding things,” Still said. “They know how to search through the phone, get emergency contact, call Mama or whatever and find out whose phone it is.”
This year, Still and his team was able to return over 60 cell phones with just seven remaining unclaimed after the fair closed on Oct. 23.
Wallets are mailed back to the addresses listed on the driver’s licenses, and military IDs are driven over to Fort Jackson, Still said.
Sometimes, people call four months later looking for lost items, but all unclaimed leftovers are donated by mid-November, Still said.
Still has taken time off from his job as a building manager to work the fair for over 20 years.
When he’s not handling the lost-and-found, his main task is in helping attendees with questions and concerns, including some who are upset at something that happened on the grounds.
“One lady was very upset because her two children got wet riding the log ride,” Still said. “You just put on a smile and keep going.”