South Carolina’s top dog? It’s Cliff Daley and his tasty treats

He’s the King of Corn Dogs and his dogs are known at festivals throughout the Southeast.

It was the winter of 1975 and Cliff Daley faced a life-changing moment.

He and his wife, Kim, had just married. They’d met while working in a snow cone wagon and playing co-ed soccer. She was a geologist, he an executive at a multinational conglomerate. But in January, his father, Zanelle, died of a heart attack. His mother, Dorothy, was caught in Alzheimer’s, in need of constant care.

The couple considered the bright yellow concession trailer Cliff had helped his father build in 1962 and one where he still worked weekends, serving corn dogs and funnel cakes.

“We said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to commit to it or go on and get out,’” Cliff recalls. “We decided to commit.”

Cliff Daley and family in front of one of his concession trailers in October 2003.
(Photo provided by the Daley family.)

The Daleys left their jobs, landed fair contracts and invested in equipment. And now, Daley’s Concessions is a food services business embarking on a third generation with four trailers seen at festivals throughout the Southeast.

“This concession has held my family together. We’ve been able to grow as a family and work together,” Daley said of Kim and their four children, two of whom plan to continue Daley’s Dogs. “They grew up in these wagons. They learned people skills. They learned to do math and make change. They learned how to serve a good product and take care of customers.”

Many of the workers at Daley’s Dogs throughout the years have been family members and friends. (Photo provided by the Daley family)

Cliff’s the Betty Crocker of Corn Dogs, touting the homemade batter and peanut oil that sears the outside, resulting in “great flavor and an ungreasy” corn dog that’s won numerous blue ribbons. Daly’s personal favorite remains the traditional dipped in mustard and there’s another one wrapped with a pickle and the now-popular jalapeno. 

“We’ve done it all,” he said, pointing to the Elvis corn dog dipped in a banana-flavored mix and slathered in peanut butter that won the Most Creative award at the North Georgia State Fair.          

2020 was the most challenging year for his business as COVID spread and fairs and festivals were cancelled.

“We went through all our savings,” Daley said. “We were very fortunate to stay afloat.”

He credits their religious faith, as well as a small business loan and generous friends.

“One thing about COVID, we tried to find something good in it, and it was people helping people and our faith in the Lord. Every time we prayed at night, there was hope.”

The Gun and Knife Show at the SC State Fairgrounds in March was their first event in almost a year. While costs have doubled for their hot dogs and cooking oil, he remains confident of the future.

“All of our events have started coming back,” he said. “People tend to be a lot nicer to one another now. Their income is flowing and everything is very positive.”

Cliff Daley and his Daley’s Dogs.
(Photo provided by the Daley family)

Getting to know Cliff Daley

CLAIM TO FAME: The owner of Daley’s Concessions has been called the King of Corn Dogs as his family has been dipping and serving Daley’s Dogs for nearly 60 years now.

HOMETOWN: Columbia, S.C.

JUST FOR KICKS: Daley received an athletic scholarship and starred on the pitch for the University of Alabama in Huntsville soccer team. He tried out for the U.S. national team before the 1976 Olympics and made it to one of the final rounds before being cut. “If it hadn’t been for that scholarship, I’d have probably joined the service and gone into Vietnam.”

FAVORITE FESTIVAL? For more than 50 years, there’s been a Daley’s Concessions at the SC State Fair. “Most everyone comes and sees us and they see a lot of their old friends from school,” said the graduate of nearby Dreher High School. “It’s like a big family reunion.”

HIS GO-TO MEAL? “It’s hard to beat a good hot dog, especially with homemade chili and onions and a little slaw.”

FAMOUS FANS: The Monday After the Masters golf tourney hosted by Hootie and the Blowfish is a favorite event. Those who’ve praised his dogs? NFL quarterbacks Dan Marino and Brett Favre and rocker Alice Cooper.


Editor’s Note: version of this SC Stories profile was featured in the October 2021 issue of South Carolina Living, a magazine that is distributed 11 times a year to more than 1 million South Carolinians by The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina.

Preacher man since he was a boy

He preached his first sermon when he was 9 years old. Now, some 60 years later, he’s still at the pulpit of his home church in West Columbia, SC.

West Columbia’s Jackson wonders why God chose him

It’s fitting one of the Rev. Charles Jackson’s favorite Bible stories has to do with the boy who offers his lunch of a few fishes and slices of bread to Christ, who multiplies the offering and feeds thousands.

Ever since he was just a child some six decades ago, Jackson has been bringing the word of God to thousands of South Carolinians and building his church into one of the Midlands’ largest. 

He’s often wondered why God chose him? 

“It’s a tremendous mystery. I didn’t choose it. It chose me.”

What makes his story even more special is that all 50 years have come at Brookland Baptist, the church in West Columbia where he grew up.

Jackson got his start presiding over funerals for his neighbors’ dogs and cats. He preached his first sermon when he was just 9 years old. He was licensed to preach a year later and eventually became pastor at Brookland at 18.

“Maybe, like Jeremiah, God called me from my mother’s womb.”

His mother, Ezella Rumph Jackson, died of cancer when he was just 16. Jackson admits her death caused him to question his faith.

“I couldn’t understand why God would take my mother, a devout Christian. That was very painful. God disappointed me greatly.”

Jackson made peace studying the story of Job.

“Even though Job wrestled and struggled with the inexplicable mystery of God, he never gave up. Because he did not give up on God, God did not give up on him.” 

Jackson believes God’s kept him in West Columbia to raise the next generation of believers and build bridges between those of different races and beliefs. He recently delivered a message of love to 75 high school seniors and juniors representing the 17 electric cooperatives across South Carolina.

Jackson downplays his story.

“May the service I give speak for me,” he says, repeating a favorite gospel hymn. “That’s all. May I rest in my grave and nothing be said. May the work I’ve done speak for me.”


The Rev. Charles Jackson. (Photo from Brookland Baptist Church website.)

Getting to know the Rev. Charles Jackson

If not a pastor? After graduating from Benedict College, Jackson was supposed to be a physician, receiving a full scholarship to medical school. “I love the sciences. I worked in biology for two years, caring for rats and mice.” However, the college’s minister steered him to Morehouse School of Religion in Atlanta, where he received his master of divinity degree.

All in the family: Jackson’s son, the Rev. Charles Jackson Jr., is pastor of the New Laurel Street Baptist Church in Columbia. “I’m happier and more excited in pastoral ministry than I’ve ever been. Much of that can be contributed to young pastors. They’ve kept me vibrant and relevant.”

Favorite Old Testament scripture: Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.


Editor’s Note: version of this SC Stories profile was featured in the September 2021 issue of South Carolina Living, a magazine that is distributed 11 times a year to more than 1 million South Carolinians by The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina.