RALEIGH — The lights, the music, the rides and the smells. Summer’s almost over and it’s never too early to start thinking about the N.C. State Fair.
The fair’s theme this year is ‘Nothing could be finer’ and will offer up everything from agricultural exhibits, music, rides and of course, the latest delicious deep-fried concoctions. Last year’s “hot foods” included strips of bacon coated with frosting and cereal and a Texas Pete glazed doughnut.
Opening day this year is October 17 and runs through October 27. Advance sale tickets began on August 1 and various ticket packages for multi-day admission and special attractions are also available.
“Buying in advance can save you up to 45% off prices once you arrive at the fair,” said Kent Yelverton, state fair manager.
This year’s fair has something really big coming; the largest traveling Ferris wheel in North America. It’s called the Sky Gazer and its 36 enclosed gondolas will lift fair goers at a whopping 155 feet in the air. For comparison, that’s 62 feet above Dorton Arena and would be like gliding up to the top of a 15-story building.
“North Carolinians who visit the State Fair every year have their traditions, but we never stop trying to ‘wow’ you,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, adding that they’ve been trying to bring the Sky Gazer to the Fair since 2017.
The Sky Gazer is not included in fair admission or on ride wristbands. Tickets are $6 in advance or $7 once the fair begins.
Music lovers can check out the Homegrown Music Festival featuring headliners like Stevie Wonder, Branford Marsalis Quartet, The Embers and The Charlie Daniels Band.
Fairgoers can also listen to a variety of over two dozen other bands and artists from country to metal and Hip Hop to jazz at one of fair’s other performance venues. Former “The Voice” contestant Molly Stevens will be playing at the Waterfall Stage and former NASCAR driver Kyle Petty will perform with folk singer David Childer at the Heritage Circle Stage.
Familiar exhibits, rides and events will be there again, like sweet potatoes and soybeans at the Got To Be NC Agriculture exhibit and the livestock and horse competitions. There are over a dozen other competitions from cheese to photography and graphic design to tobacco stringing.
“More than 35,000 exhibits are entered into the fair each year,” said John Buettner, competitive exhibits director for the NC State Fair. “The fair offers hundreds of categories and, we encourage fairgoers of all ages to look through the online premium book to see if your favorite craft, produce, artwork or skill is blue-ribbon worthy.”
This year a new cooking contest called “The Cool Bean” has been added. Contestants will be asked to create their best edamame or tofu dishes for the judges.
Alongside the old and familiar are also a few new things like Kegs, Corks & Pop at the Our State Public House where fairgoers can sample of craft soda, up to two 8oz. N.C. craft beers, or up to two 3oz. N.C. wine samples. Kegs, Corks & Pop Passes are only available online in advance of the fair and must be purchased before midnight on Thursday, Oct. 17.
The N.C. State Fair’s 166-year history is rooted in agriculture and it still is today. Managed by the state’s department of agriculture, the mission of the modern fair is the same as that of its early beginnings — “to showcase and promote the state’s agriculture, agribusiness, arts, crafts and culture through the annual agricultural fair.”
The State Agricultural Society held the first fair which lasted 4 days back in 1853. It wasn’t until 1891 that the first midway ride — a coaster called the Switchback Railway — was added. Food booths started to make their way onto the scene in 1900, and by 1928 the fair was relocated to its current site and several buildings for educational and commercial use were added.
For more information on tickets, exhibits, contests and competitions, visit www.ncstatefair.org.