About an hour before kickoff against the UCF Knights, Captain Telegram stands underneath 'The Rocket' at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds. “Where's my contact?” he asks the person on the other end. It's 11:05 and apparently, the contact for the singing telegram is on the way. After a brief conversation about the recently raised rocket behind us, two men approach and the captain jests that they look like the type to show up late for the party. But they've merely come to take pictures together – myself included. After a few laughs and some talk about the weather the contact shows up and we quickly maneuver through the gameday crowd towards the stadium and specifically – a grey tent in the distance. Captain Telegram busts in on a tailgate party – wishing Tonja Chinners, University of South Carolina Class of 1989, a happy birthday. He sings about Tonja's name being pronounced like “Tan Ya” and not like “Ganja.” After a crafty song, he instigates a birthday parade around the tailgate complete with a one man kazoo band. Captain Telegram is a hot air balloonist, musician, trolley car driver and has been singing telegrams in Columbia since 1979.
Columbia SC Photographer Sean Rayford