‘Tis N.C. State Fair season and nothing could be finer. And whether you’re a State Fair veteran or a rookie, you know there is something magical about the state fair that is calling your name. Between the cool autumn nights kept well-lit by the carnival midway, the deep-fried delicacies, and the engaging exhibits and entertainment, what’s not to like? To make sure you’re taking full advantage of your time at the fair, we’ve listed some things that you must do at this year’s event, Oct. 13-23.
- See a concert on every stage. As a part of this year’s Homegrown Music Fest there will be 117 free concerts held in Dorton Arena, and on the Kitchen Craft Waterfall and Heritage Circle Bluegrass stages. Don’t miss the chance to see North Carolina acts like Delta Rae, Chris Lane, Lotus Sun and Christiane & the Strays take the stage.
- Take a selfie with Casey Cardinal. Casey is the fair’s syndicated mascot and a smiling symbol of the 11 days of fun that take place on the fairgrounds come Oct. 13. You might be able to find him by his Clubhouse or Big Slide in Kiddieland.
- Indulge in one or more of the fair’s deep-fried concoctions. You can stick to the more traditional options –funnel cake, elephant ears, deep-fried Oreos, etc. – or go for more adventurous newbies such as deep-fried Cuban rolls, N.C. lump crab meat hushpuppies, deep-fried Jello, and more.
- Ride the State Fair Flyer. Take a break from navigating through the crowds and soar above the carnival on the State Fair Flyer. The view’s an added perk.
- Enter a blue-ribbon competition. Wiser words have never been spoken: ‘you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.’ So why not take a shot at some of our blue-ribbon competitions? For those who missed the chance to register for competitions that require advanced registration, there are numerous competitions that allow for registration through the day of the contest – the special cooking contests and the tobacco stringing contest to name a few.
- Enjoy NCSU’s Howling Cow ice cream. A staple of the N.C. State Fair for decades, N.C. State University’s Howling Cow ice cream is some of the best around. This year, Howling Cow has partnered with the Fair to create Southern Apple Pie, which will be sold exclusively at the fair. It’s an apple pie-flavored ice cream with pie crust pieces and a caramel cinnamon swirl.
- Make a thorough round through the midway. Two words: 98 rides. You won’t be able to ride all of the rides in our extensive midway — there will be certain rides you don’t meet the height requirements for — but you can make your best effort. And this feat is a lot easier (and cheaper) for fairgoers who purchase unlimited ride wristbands. If rides aren’t your thing, our midway is still certainly one of the best in the country, so it’s still worth it to take in all the lights, games and terrified screams.
- Stop and smell the roses at the Flower & Garden Show. A natural oasis in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Fair, the Flower and Garden show features paths of beautiful gardens and more than 90 gardening demonstrations. Also in the exhibit are the giant Adirondack chair and the Barrel Monster family, both of which serve as great photo ops for your next Instagram.
- Visit the State Fair Ark. Unless you live at a zoo, how often do you have the chance to see more than 60 different animals on display at once? Fairgoers can see cattle, sheep, goats, and swine and learn more about the farm animals raised in North Carolina at the State Fair Ark in the Exposition Center.
- See the art and photography. Put on your favorite art critiquing glasses and go see the hundreds of works on display in the Education Building. Paintings, drawings, photographs and more created by students, amateurs and professionals are presented.
- See the giant pumpkins. The Exposition Center will be home to the giant pumpkins and watermelons entered in the great pumpkin/watermelon weigh-off competition. These produce can reach sizes you have to see to believe. This year’s top prizes winners are a 318.5-pound watermelon and a 1,090.5-pound pumpkin.
- Support your favorite Circle “C” racing pig. Stop by the Hogway Speedway to see the pigs of Circle “C” Farm of Newton, NC race for a cheese doodle prize.
- Visit the 100 Year celebration of N.C. State parks exhibit. This year, N.C. State Parks celebrates its 100th year of establishing and maintaining the beautiful state parks that accommodate more than 15 million visitors each year.
- Attend a Livestock show. Whether you’re a fan of dairy cattle or pygmy goats, the fair’s Livestock Competition has an extensive listing of shows to suit your interests. So go scope out the competition and cheer on your favorites.
- Watch the fireworks from the Ferris Wheel. This task may require special planning but its sure to be worth the effort. The fireworks start at 9:45 p.m. each day of the Fair, so be prepared to be in line well before that.
Let us know! What would you add to your N.C. State Fair bucket list? Hope to see you when the gates open tomorrow at 3 p.m.!