South of the Border (attraction)

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South of the Border
South of the Border (attraction) 1.jpg
South of the Border's large welcome sign
LocationHamer, South Carolina, U.S.
Opened1950 (72 years ago) (1950)

South of the Border is an attraction on Interstate 95 (I-95), US Highway 301 (US 301) and US 501 in Hamer, South Carolina, just south of Rowland, North Carolina. It is so named because it is just south of the border between North Carolina and South Carolina, and was the half way point to Florida from New York in the early days of motor travel. The area is themed in faux-Mexican style. The rest area contains restaurants, gas stations, a video arcade, motel, truck stop, a small amusement park, a mini golf course, shopping, fireworks stores, and a motocross training complex. Its mascot is Pedro, a caricature of a Mexican bandido. South of the Border is known for its roadside billboard advertisements, which begin many miles away from and incorporate a mileage countdown to the attraction itself. The stop has since fallen on hard times as more modern hotel areas have grown along I-95.[citation needed]


The entire motif of South of the Border can be described as intentionally campy. South of the Border is located at the intersection of I-95 and US 301/US 501 just south of the border between North Carolina and South Carolina. The site is a 350-acre (140 ha) compound that contains a miniature golf course, truck stop, 300-room motel, multiple souvenir shops, a campground, multiple restaurants, amusement rides, and a 200-foot (61 m) observation tower with a sombrero shaped observation deck.[1] It is also home to "Reptile Lagoon", the largest indoor reptile exhibit in the U.S.[2]

Architectural features include "a Jetsons-esque starburst chandelier"[3] in the lobby and Mimetic. Pedro's Pleasure Dome is a swimming pool inside "a junkyard version" of a geodesic dome. A Washington Post review says, "[F]lashing signs ... throw technicolor pink and green and blue onto every surface. No destination or sentiment is too small to be blared out in bright orange."[3] Numerous large statues of animals such as dolphins, horses, dogs, gorillas and dinosaurs can be found. The Peddler Steakhouse, the nicest of the restaurants, is shaped like a sombrero, while the Mexican-themed Sombrero restaurant is not, though its décor includes sombreros, cactus and terra cotta, with lots of lime green. There are areas that bring to mind the photography of William Eggleston, the cinematography of David Lynch, and the gas station art of Ed Ruscha.[3]

The motocross training center, known as South of the Border Motocross (SOBMX), is used for riders in training and a competitive race course. The AMA regional championship motocross is held at South of the Border, and in the spring, the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship organises a regional qualifier at South of the Border.[4] There are four circuits—a 1.4 miles (2.3 km) motocross track, a Supercross training facility, an Arenacross training facility, and a second 1.1 miles (1.8 km) motocross track. By insurance regulations, only licensed AMA or FIM professional riders are permitted on the Supercross or Arenacross circuits.[5]


South of the Border was developed by Alan Schafer in 1950.[6] He had founded South of the Border Depot, a beer stand, at the location in 1949 adjacent to Robeson County which was, at one time, one of many dry North Carolina counties.[7][1][3] Business was steadily expanded with Mexican trinkets and numerous kitsch items imported from Mexico.[6] The site itself also began to expand to include a cocktail lounge, gas station and souvenir shop and, in 1954, a motel.[8][9] In 1962, South of the Border expanded into fireworks sales, potentially capitalizing on the fact fireworks were illegal in North Carolina.[10] In 1964 it was announced that the route for I-95 would pass right by South of the Border, and the facility would be next to two exits and within view of the highway.[11] By the mid-1960s, South of the Border had expanded to include a barber shop, drug store, a variety store, a post office, an outdoor go-kart track complete with other outdoor recreational facilities and the 104 feet (32 m) tall image of the mascot, Pedro.[10]

Over the years, the billboards with messages some considered racist and offensive changed to become tamer while still retaining the same tongue-in-cheek tone. Schafer continued to deny his attraction was racist, citing the fact that he was known for hiring African Americans, and even helping them to vote, and standing up to the Ku Klux Klan.[12]

About 300 people, mostly local employees, work at South of the Border. At one time, with 700 working there, it was the largest employer in Dillon County, South Carolina.[12]


Initially, Schafer only used sombreros and serapes in advertisements for South of the Border.[13] However, after Schafer hired two men he had met on a business trip to Mexico as bellboys, people began calling them Pedro and Pancho, leading to the development of the Pedro mascot.[3] Schafer eventually created Pedro, an exaggerated, cartoon-like representation of a Mexican bandit, to add to the exotic element and theme of the attraction.[14] Pedro wears a sombrero, a poncho and a large mustache.[6][14][15] Minstrel shows were still popular in Dillon County in the 1940s and 1950s, at about the time Pedro was created and P. Nicole King argues that Pedro embodies the way in which people exoticized Mexico or Mexicans at the time while working within the themes of camp[16]

Pedro has likewise been referred to as culturally offensive, politically incorrect or racist.[6][15][14][17] P. Nicole King described Pedro's likeness as a "southern Jewish guy in brown face" that was perhaps made, partially, in Schafer's image.[6][18] Schafer himself had previously dismissed criticism that Pedro is an unfair characterization of Mexicans and argued that Pedro's design is a light-hearted joke.[19] Today, all South of the Border employees, regardless of race, are referred to as "Pedro".[6][20]

Pop culture[edit]

American storyteller, radio and TV personality, Jean Shepherd began his TV movie, The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters, with a trip to South of the Border. He stops at a fireworks market called Fort Pedro, which leads him into the story of the most memorable Fourth of July during his childhood in the fictional town of Hohman, Indiana.

The opening scene of Season 3, Episode 5 of Eastbound & Down shows characters Eduardo Sanchez Powers and Casper robbing a Mexican store leading the viewers to believe they were still in Mexico. The scene later reveals they were actually robbing the gift shop at South of the Border and are now traveling in the United States.[21]

In Impractical Jokers: The Movie, the Jokers leave Q at a motel, to have him ride on horseback to South of the Border, where the rest of the Jokers await him.[22]

In the movie "Forces of Nature" (1999), starring Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck, the main characters stop at South of the Border as passengers on a tour bus.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Stanonis, Anthony Joseph, ed. (2008). Dixie Emporium: Tourism, Foodways, and Consumer Culture in the American South. Athens: University of Georgia Press. p. 148. OCLC 193911014.
  2. ^ "Reptile Lagoon ~ South Of The Border's Newest Attraction « South Of The Border ~ America's Favorite Highway Oasis". Archived from the original on January 4, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e Judkis, Maura (July 14, 2016). "This S.C. roadside attraction is garish, tacky and un-PC — but I stopped anyway". Washington Post.
  4. ^ "South of the Border MX - General Information".
  5. ^ "Tracks | South of the Border MX Motocross Training Facility". December 16, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Reeves, James (2011). The Road to Somewhere: An American Memoir. New York: Norton and Company. p. 47.
  7. ^ "History". South of the Border.
  8. ^ Stanonis (2008).
  9. ^ "In College: Bernanke once had job at South of the Border". Fayetteville Observer. March 18, 2009. Archived from the original on January 31, 2010. Retrieved June 12, 2009.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  10. ^ a b Stanonis (2008), p. 155.
  11. ^ Stanonis (2008), pp. 155–156.
  12. ^ a b Wiersema, Libby (July 18, 2017). "South Carolina's South of the Border survives modern times". Post and Courier. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  13. ^ King, P. Nicole (2012). Sombreros and Motorcycles in a Newer South: The Politics of Aesthetics in South Carolina's Tourism Industry. Univiversity Press of Mississippi. p. 90. ISBN 978-1617032516.
  14. ^ a b c King (2012), p. 96.
  15. ^ a b Greenberg, Peter (2008). Don't Go There!: The Travel Detective's Essential Guide to the Must-Miss Places of the World. Rodale. p. 255.
  16. ^ King (2012), pp. 87, 91.
  17. ^ "7 Controversial & Offensive Tourist Attractions In The U.S." Vibe. November 10, 2015.
  18. ^ King (2012), p. 91.
  19. ^ King (2012), pp. 93, 94.
  20. ^ King (2012), p. 93.
  21. ^ Martin, Garrett (March 22, 2012). "Eastbound & Down Review: "Chapter 18" (Episode 3.05)". Paste Magazine. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  22. ^ Moore, Roger (March 13, 2020). "Movie Review — "Impractical Jokers: The Movie"".

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°29′52″N 79°18′35″W / 34.49778°N 79.30972°W / 34.49778; -79.30972