Despite the dark clouds and occasional raindrops, families still converged on opening day at the Western Carolina State Fair on Thursday.


Fairgoers feasted on the typical fries, slushies and popcorn. But this year, the Fair widened its menu to feature sweets including red velvet funnel cakes, turkey legs, roasted corn on the cob and baked potatoes. The most daring went on rides like the Himalaya or the giant Ferris wheel, while for the first time individuals could ride The Stinger and Vertigo.


Not all attendants could take part on some of the rides, including Zora Banks, 8, who was told because of her height she could not ride the ride of her choice. But with persistence from her stepfather Maurice Patten, Banks quickly forgot about the disappointment and set her eyes on another fast ride.


“I love the Himalaya ride because it goes pretty fast and goes backward,” Banks said. “But I definitely will not go on the boat ride. It's not fun looking.”


Thursday's entertainment included hypnotist Mark Yuzuik, rodeo horse shows, Barney of Mayberry on the Midway and Ackmonster's Chainsaw Art during fair hours. Others could throw darts at balloons and win giant stuffed animal prizes or try their luck at shooting a basketball into a net. Jessica Davis, a worker at the fair for her third straight season, said while she enjoys working, it is the food she loves the most.


“It's pretty cool getting to go to different places while you work at a fair,” Davis said. “We travel for about eight months out of the year, up and down the East Coast. But, I really get excited about the food. I love the funnel cakes, but after you've eaten them so many times you sometimes want to try something else.”


The Fair featured vendors as well, including Sankofa's Workshop, a small business selling unique pieces such as dream catchers and jewelry.


“Everything I make has some kind of meaning,” owner Sankofa Gordon said. “I'm originally from D.C. and basically self-taught myself to make all these pieces. I learned how to do this for about four years and (have) been doing it ever since.”


The Fair closes on Oct. 26, but children like Banks said the first night will not be her only night spent at the Fair.


“I'm not sure if I will be able to take her every night,” Patten said. “But, she will at least go with her cousins and that will be fun.”


If individuals want to post their favorite moments from the Fair, for Twitter use @wcstatefair and #WCSF13 for Instagram. Fair information can be found through Facebook and those who wish to get updates sent to their phone can text AIKEN FAIR to 95454.


For more information and advanced ticket purchases, visit www.letsrideaiken.com.


Maayan Schechter is the city beat reporter with Aiken Standard and started with the paper in July. She has a degree in mass communications-journalism from the University of North Carolina Asheville.