North Carolinians can’t get enough of the State Fair

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By Ben Maske

One of North Carolina’s most beloved traditions is the annual state fair. It is a place where people go to kick back, ride rides, eat crazy food, and spend time with loved ones.

The North Carolina State Fair is an agricultural exposition and extra large carnival hosted in Raleigh at the State Fairgrounds. The N.C. Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services hosts the fair, dating back to1853.

The state fair is N.C. largest commercial event, and took place Oct. 13 through Oct. 23. The eleven day event drew in over 960,000 visitors. Quinn Jeffs, NC State senior business major attended the fair with friends.

“I love the fair. I’m from Raleigh so I have been a bunch of times, but it is always a blast. My favorite food item from the fair was for sure the giant turkey leg. And my favorite ride was the ring of fire,” said Jeffs.

A crowded fair, patrons waiting in long lines for the rides
Photo by Dezarae Churchill

Before 1948, there were no carnival rides at the N.C. State Fair. The main attractions were displays in commercial and educational buildings.

That year, James E. Strates provided the Midway, which gave birth to the large carnival rides and game display that is seen today.

The cost of admission in 1960 was $0.75 for adults, and $0.35 for children.

Today, the State Fair coordinates with the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina to offer families an alternative to admission payment. “Can Day” allows families to bring six cans of food in exchange for an admission ticket.

People from surrounding states come to Raleigh for the event. The fair brings in 5 and a half million dollars annually. 4 million dollars of that revenue comes from just rides alone.

Some people come for the rides, the others to indulge in the food. The N.C. State Fair is notorious for experimental fried foods. A few years ago, deep-fried oreos were all the rage. This year’s new hot takes are deep-fried cuban rolls, sparkling churros, Korean hot dogs, rattlesnake corn dogs, and deep-fried piggy tails.

A variety of deep-fried food options
Photo by Dezarae Churchill

Deep-fried piggy tails are a concoction of bacon topped with cinnamon, thrown in a deep fryer, and topped with powdered sugar and syrup. They also had deep-fried bacon mac -n- cheese tacos.

Today, the tradition of exhibitions is still alive at the N.C. State Fair. The Jim Graham building houses the largest vegetables grown by farmers this year. Local vendors offer samples of their products, local art students display their projects, and small business owners are offered the opportunity to sell their creations.

Boy writing his aspirations for the city of Raleigh at the N.C. Democrat booth inside the Jim Graham building.
Photo by Dezarae Churchill

Regardless of what brings you to the fair, it is a hit among North Carolinians. The state fair has made its way into our hearts and is a fall tradition. Vendors plan to outdo themselves each year with the newest, craziest treats for everyone to try.

The ferris wheel, wacky maze, and small roller coasters are a few fan favorites. For thrill seekers, the ring of fire, zipper, and the drop tower are sure to make your heart skip a beat.

The NC State Fair is more than just a carnival, it has become a staple in North Carolina’s culture.

A view of the fair at night
Photo by Dezarae Churchill