Like Mary Ann's, the Beacon attracts candidates of both parties. Church wouldn't reveal which candidate he favors but said the in-person encounters do make a difference.
"I'll get to see usually three-quarters of the people who are running, and it has changed my vote — how they answer questions and their personality. We get to see them on TV, but seeing them in real life and how they handle pressure does influence us," he said.
Candidates also work the crowds tailgating before the home football games of South Carolina's two biggest college rivals.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman did a rare two-fer this year, hitting the crowd at a Clemson University football game and then driving for more than two hours to watch the University of South Carolina play in Columbia.
The Labor Day parade in Chapin, S.C., has been something of a good luck charm for Republican candidates for years, though only former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum showed up this year, when the forecast called for rain.
Chapin Mayor Stan Shealy said more candidates were expected, particularly with a forum that drew nearly the entire field to nearby Columbia.
What of the parade's knack for bringing good luck to candidates? "I guess Santorum's got it," Shealy said. "But he better get to work."
A glance at candidate schedules shows Santorum, more than most, has visited the traditional spots in New Hampshire, with Huntsman making it to a fair number.
In Iowa, popular spots include the Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor in Le Mars, Pizza Ranch restaurants and the Iowa State Fair, though some candidates have enjoyed the latter more than others.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the son of a tenant farmer, ate what he called "corny dogs," put his feet up on bales of hay and talked about his appreciation for the agricultural way of life.
Less at ease was Romney, the son of a politician, who grew agitated during his August trip, uttering his "corporations are people" defense when faced with a handful of hecklers.
Associated Press writer Jim Davenport in South Carolina contributed to this report.
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