By Joanna Grey Talbot
The State Fair – Whether it evokes images of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 1945 musical, State Fair, that took place in Iowa or of 4-H competitions and deep-fried food, going to the state fair is an experience. The one hosted by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture at the Raleigh fairgrounds is no exception.
All four of my undergrad years were spent in Raleigh and I attended the fair three out of the four with friends. After I moved back home to Charlotte I went a couple more times but this year’s was the first visit in four years. My husband and I met a couple of our friends from Chapel Hill there and despite it being a little chilly because of wind had a great time.
In all honesty I have never attended any other state fairs so I cannot compare but there are so many things I love about it. Depending on what day you attend the crowds can be overwhelming but if you take your time it can ease any potential frustrations.
The Food – Each year food vendors try to outdo themselves and each other. This year the state fair Facebook page previewed the new offerings, which helped us narrow down the ones we wanted to try. One of the best was a Raleigh food truck called Baguettaboutit. The menu is nothing but freshly baked baguettes with a NC-made sausage and locally-sourced sauces stuffed inside. My husband had The Buffalo (chicken chipotle sausage, Franks Buffalo Sauce, ranch dressing) and raved about it.
The Shows – Throughout the fairgrounds each day you can find acts from around the world performing. We managed to catch The Red Trouser Show, which is David Graham and Tobin Renwick – two guys who will have you in stitches the whole time. Their show is reminiscent of old Vaudeville shows because it is filled with comedy, fire juggling, acrobatics, and crowd involvement. They were by far my favorite part of the day!
The Animals and Giant Pumpkins – I NEVER miss walking through the Expo Center where the horticultural competition and State Fair Ark are located. There you can see prize-winning peppers and watermelons and the biggest pumpkin you’ve ever laid your eyes on. This year’s winning pumpkin was 685 pounds!! That’s a lot of pumpkin pies… You can also check out a variety of sheep, goats, cattle, turkeys, and pigs and even try your hand at milking a cow (hosted by the NC State University Animal Science Club).
The History – Depending on where I park I always try to come in the gate by the Heritage Circle, which is an area that honors aspects of North Carolina’s history. Here you can find a working grist mill (and free hushpuppies!), blacksmith shop, tobacco barn, bluegrass performances, and homemade ice cream. The Village of Yesteryear is located next door and features over 75 artists creating and selling handmade crafts that are equally a part of the state’s history. You can find everything from basket weaving to glass blowing to leather working to silversmithing.
No matter if you spend a couple hours or all day you will never be lacking for something to do and something to eat. I haven’t even touched on everything (pig racing? concerts? rides?)! Parking is free and if you buy your tickets early online they’re only $9. If you can’t make it to the NC State Fair next year then be sure to check out your own states’!