How to win big at State Fair kids’ competitions

The grand champion of the 2016 Junior Market Lamb Contest posing with the top lamb.

Every autumn, the N.C. State Fair hosts dozens of kids’ competitions and offers hundreds of dollars in prize money to winners. At this year’s 150th fair, kids have an opportunity to show their skills in a variety of areas and claim the ultimate bragging rights. The contests can range from arts and photography to horticulture and poultry, and everything in between. To help kids navigate the hustle and bustle of fair championships, I gathered advice from an experienced contender, Joey Moore, who has claimed first place in many contests, including livestock, art, 4-H, and handicrafts and hobbies. Along the way, he has won thousands of dollars in premiums.  Keep reading for a list of children’s contests and some tips on how to make the most of the State Fair match-ups.

The fair is known for showcasing a wide assortment of talents each year and giving away over $500,000 in premiums. Almost all competitions include kids’ categories, so anyone from ages 5 to 18 can participate in the fun. Certain contests have categories for exceptional or special needs competitors.

The 2017 State Fair kids’ competitions include:

  • 4-H
  • Arts & Photography
  • Clothing
  • Culinary (features exceptional and special needs categories)
  • Essay
  • Flower & Garden Show
  • Folk Festival
  • Handicrafts & Hobbies (features exceptional and special needs categories)
  • Horticulture
  • Kids Cookie Decorating Contest
  • Kids Sugar Cube Building Contest
  • Poultry, Rabbits and Cavies
  • Dairy Special Awards
  • Livestock Special Awards
  • Junior Market Lamb
  • Youth Dairy Goats
  • Junior Showmanship Champion

For a complete list of contests, make sure to check out the 2017 State Fair Premium Book online at

Pro tips

With so many opportunities to compete, it’s easy to get caught up in the details. However, Moore, a 20-year-old student at N.C. State, offered some input from his experiences to help kids improve their work, try their best and, most importantly, have a good time.

He said one of the most important steps is to begin the projects ahead of time.

“Start working on whatever contest it is that you’re going to participate in early,” he said. “If you’re showing an animal, start working it months in advance. If you’re making a craft, start earlier than you think you need to. This will let you put extra effort into it, and make the end product better.”

He also said kids can improve a lot of their existing talents and gain new ones by entering contests and working hard.

You learn a lot of skills through the various competitions at the fair,” he said. “Whether it be ways to create things, artistic abilities, or most importantly work ethic, there is always something to be gained by the competitions you compete in.”

One of the perks of competing at the State Fair is the premiums you can get for winning. Moore said he saved his earnings for things that would help him get ahead in the future.

Some of it I saved for college, others I put back in to buy new livestock or stuff for my craft projects,” he said. “I put some of it into computer equipment so that I could get better at IT-related things, and use it for school.”

Even if they don’t take home the first-place prize, kids gain invaluable skills from competing at the State Fair.

“The lessons you accumulate through those contests are lessons that you will carry with you in life, and that will apply to a lot of different areas of your life,” Moore said.

For more information on how to enter, deadlines, rules and judging criteria, you can refer to the 2017 State Fair Premium Book online at, or call the Entry Department at 919-839-4515.



About Pumpkin

I'm Charlotte Spence, also known as Pumpkin. I'm a UNC-Chapel Hill student, Raleigh native and life long fairgoer. I'm so excited to take part in the researching, writing and planning process of one of my favorite traditions in the Tar Heel state as a summer intern!


  1. Haley Gardner

    I love you, Pumpkin! Fave blogger ever!

  2. Competition helps kids learn that it is not always the best or the brightest who are successful, but rather those that work hard and stick with it.
    Thanks for Sharing Beautiful Post.

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