‘North Carolina’s Homecoming’

N.C. State Fair opens with new food, new rides, more contest entries
Oct. 14, 2013 @ 10:15 PM

The N.C. State Fair opens Thursday at the fairgrounds in Raleigh with more contest entries than ever, plus more deep-fried food options and new rides.

Entries overall increased 43 percent from last year, with the biggest increase in 4-H, beer and flower and garden shows, which all had a more than 100 percent increase. There are 54 percent more rabbit entries this year for fairgoers who enjoy visiting the rabbit barn.

It’s the 160th anniversary of the fair, though there have been only 146 fairs due to wars, gaps and changes, said N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler on Monday at the media preview for the fair. The fairgrounds bustled with trucks, tractors and trailers as games, rides and food vendors were set up under gray skies.

Fair spokesman Brian Long made the annual jokes about inclement weather and hopes for clear skies. It’s not the Seattle fair, he said on the dreary day, and that it would get better before Thursday’s opening. The National Weather Service forecast calls for a chance of showers but a fair amount of sun through the weekend. The fair opens at 3 p.m. Thursday, and then at 8 a.m. daily starting Friday through Oct. 27.

The theme this year is “North Carolina’s Homecoming,” and there are plenty of reasons people keep coming back to the fair, Long said. He noted the new fried food, which includes pink lemonade funnel cakes, fried half-pound Sugar Daddy bars, fried Cow Tales and Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joes.

The funnel cakes, which will be sold inside and near Dorton Arena, are pink dough with lemon doughnut glaze. Cow Tales are a caramel and cream candy fried on a stick that looks a bit like a corn dog with chocolate drizzled on top. The Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe is a self-explanatory combination of salt, sugar and fat.

Annual fairgoers with eagle eyes may spot a few changes on the grounds. Fair manager Wesley Wyatt said the livestock trailer park is larger, the administration building had a few renovations, the old schoolhouse was re-sided, and the display cases for the Family and Consumer Sciences department now rotates for cakes.

The newest exhibit at the fair is Agriculture Today, presented by soybean farmers and featuring a soybean fountain and biochemistry stage show. A fire truck, tractor and Smokey Bear will be there, too. The exhibit will be near Gate 11.

Each day of the N.C. State Fair features a full schedule of events, from Specialty Cooking Contests to Circle C Racing Pigs to a Fire Safety Show to musical performances, with fireworks ending the night.

Concerts, which require separate tickets, include Sister Hazel, Joe Nichols, Eli Young Band and two nights of North Carolina’s own Scotty McCreery. The Florida Georgia Line concert is sold out.

The Flower & Garden Show, agriculture exhibit, livestock competitions and crafts for display and sale are ongoing.

Special days include Youth Celebration Day Oct. 21, Senior Citizens Day Oct. 22, Military Appreciation Day Oct. 23 and Food Lion Hunger Relief Day on Oct. 24. Hunger Relief Day benefits the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, and admission is exchanged for five cans of donated food.

Mike Hall, director of operations for Food Lion, said that 1.8 million pounds of food has been donated since 2004. Their goal is 250,000 pounds this year, he said.

Powers Great American Midway is bringing four new rides this year. The Gold Rush Express is a train ride in Kiddieland. A new ride on its way from Colorado is The Stampede – a double ferris wheel with the seats facing out. There’s also Surf’s Up and The Vortex.

Troxler said the fair is like a big family reunion.

“The fair means different things to different people,” he said. “For us, it’s about the people.” Agriculture is still a focal point of the fair and they’re really proud of that, he said.

For all the details about what’s at the fair, visit www.ncstatefair.org or follow the fair on Facebook or Twitter. The fair also has a free app through Google and iTunes.