Siahee Shipman is keeping the lines moving at the South Carolina State Fair.
When the 154th anniversary fair opened its gates to the public Oct. 11, Shipman could be found at a familiar spot welcoming guests as they made their way inside.
“You get to see old friends, people you have not seen since college, high school, middle school or even elementary school,” said Shipman, who is celebrating his 20th year with the fair this year. “And, of course, you get to meet new people.”
Since first joining the fair staff as a seasonal employee, Shipman (known as Si) has worked at the fair’s front gates, initially as a ticket collector and team leader before eventually being named gate superintendent, a position he has held the past seven years. This year he is serving as the South Gate superintendent for the first time after spending the previous six years as North Gate superintendent at the Rosewood Drive entrance.
Shipman views his role, along with others on his staff, as a frontline encounter for fair patrons.
“We are the first people they see,” he explained. “You help people, so it’s good to have a smile on their faces.”
As eager fair patrons make their way inside the gates, Shipman said it sometimes can be a challenge to maintain the flow, particularly during peak times. But it’s a challenge he and others embrace.
“You’ve got to talk to people. You’ve got to let them know the line is moving,” he said, adding that job is all the easier because of the outstanding gate staff.
“We have a good team,” Shipman said.
When Shipman can grab a few minutes away from the gates, he enjoys walking the fairgrounds and talking in the sites, exhibits and animals.
“It’s just getting the opportunity to see how much hard work is put into the fair,” he said. “You smell all the food, and every now and then you try to taste the food.”
Away from the fair, Shipman works as an inspector for the Town of Lexington, which he also describes as a great place to work. But he looks forward to taking vacation each October to assume his place at the fair gates.
“It’s one of those things . . . you know what’s coming, you can’t wait until it gets here, and then it’s gone.”
At least, until next year.