The history book says Big Thursday died in 1959.
But the history book is wrong. It will live again in Ridgeland this week.
From 1896 to 1959, Big Thursday was that November day when businesses and schools closed and South Carolina’s not-so-friendly family brawl of a football game was the culmination of the State Fair.
It was the annual clash between the University of South Carolina and Clemson — except for the seven years they suspended play due to the riot after the 1902 game.
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Big Thursday seemed bigger than life.
In 1946, someone sold 10,000 bogus tickets, and by the end of the first quarter the general admission gates were crashed and the game was more like a rodeo stampede than football.
A Clemson fan once ran across the field literally wringing the neck of the Carolina Gamecock mascot.
In the Great Clemson Caper of 1961, Carolina’s Sigma Nu brethren fooled everyone, for a few minutes, when they pranced onto the field dressed as the Clemson football team and started doing spasmotic warmups.
For the last Big Thursday game, the great Southern sports columnist, Furman Bisher, motored over from Atlanta to bequeath us his version of the last rites:
“As streaks of eastern light cracked the skies of South Carolina this Thursday morning, many a Sandlapper arose from his bed and dressed in his garish best while in the kitchen his bride packed the picnic basket. Flasks were filled with tonic water, in case venomous snakes were encountered on this hazardous journey, and shortly they set out, hardy pioneers advancing on the state capital.
“From Wampee to Walhalla, from Yemassee to Tamassee this little drama of the dawn was enacted. Fathers, mothers, daughters and sons, alumni, alumnae and spiritual affiliates, politicians, storekeepers and bankers, doctors, lawyers, bakers and thieves, alcoholics, teetotalers, preachers and bartenders all were going the same way.
“There was a funeral of an old friend to attend.”
But that funeral is now alive and well in Ridgeland.
It actually will be celebrated this with week with the Big Thursday Tailgate Party and Oyster Roast at the Jasper County Farmers Market.
I’m not so sure Big Thursday ever died in the Lowcountry.
When Kendall Wall Malphrus was a little girl, the Carolina and Clemson faithful played a football game in Ridgeland on Big Thursday.
“They had cheerleaders and everything,” she said.
Kendall is now an adult, happily married to Shannon Tanner who for 29 summers has wowed families with his musical show at Shelter Cove on Hilton Head.
And she works at the Jasper County Chamber of Commerce, which for about 15 years has channeled Carolina-Clemson hatred into sweet eating — and money.
“We try to keep friendly competition in it,” she said. Key word: Friendly.
Fans buy a Clemson or a Carolina ticket and wear their favorite school’s colors to the event. The chamber will fly the flag for the team with the most supporters until next year.
This Big Thursday offers all-you-can-eat oysters, hamburgers and hot dogs; soft drinks, beer and wine; door prizes, a silent auction and live music by the Nautical Wheelers.
It will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Jasper County Farmers Market, 9935 South Jacob Smart Blvd., Ridgeland.
Tickets are $20 for member or $25 for non-member and must be purchased in advance. Tickets are available at the Chamber of Commerce, 403 Russell St., Ridgeland. For more information call 843-726-8126.
Good, clean hate never tasted so good.