Tucked into a forest, new fairgrounds building highlights natural resources & conservation

There’s a new building on the fairgrounds for 2021, and a unique element of its design could have you staring at the walls. The new building will generally be called the Natural Resources Center. It’s tucked away in the wooded area in the northwest corner of the fairgrounds, which is called the N.C. State Fair Conservation forest. In 2021, the forest is sponsored by Enviva.

The Natural Resources Center nearing completion.

The area is behind the flower and garden show and Heritage Circle. That’s the area where you can find the sawmill demonstration and the Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show. It’s also where you find Smokey Bear, other N.C. Forest Service exhibits and the Soil and Water Conservation exhibits.

Labeled wood planks used in the building’s interior walls.

Some of those forestry exhibits and the Soil and Water Conservation exhibits will be inside the new building during the fair. While the nice yellow poplar wood exterior may get your attention, the wood of the interior walls is where you’ll want to direct an inquisitive eye. The wall surfaces are made of 29 different varieties of wood that are all native to North Carolina. The varieties range from American basswood, ash and black cherry, to shortleaf pine, white oak and yellow birch. Construction manager Bob Stanfield explained that the eastern side of the building includes wood from tree species native to eastern North Carolina, while the western wall has wood from trees that grow in the western part of the state. Wood from trees that grow in the piedmont is in between, on the north and south end walls. Stanfield put wood from trees that grow across multiple areas of the state wherever he thought they fit best.

At the request of Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, Stanfield previously managed construction of several structures in Heritage Circle, including the blacksmith shop and the previous Public House. (The Public House has moved to the south side of Dorton Arena for 2021.)

When asked if he’s proud of the work, he said, “Very much. If I didn’t [take pride in it], I wouldn’t do it. If I can’t do it and be satisfied – these contractors will tell you, if it’s not like I want it, you have to fix it like I want it. That’s what my job is.”

When he says “like I want it,” what he’s really get at is what Commissioner Troxler wants. There’s a vision for building, and Stanfield has been making sure that vision becomes a reality.

“He tells me what he wants and says just figure out the rest of it, and that’s what we do.”

The N.C. Forest Service acquired all of the wood used in the building thanks to donations from North Carolina suppliers. The Forest Service will share the building with the North Carolina Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and the NCDA&CS Soil and Water Conservation division. The association contributed $70,000 to the building’s construction, which is a noticeable upgrade from the space the entities previously shared.

“This is a much more attractive location,” said division director Vernon Cox. “It’s better for the people who attend as well as the protection of our exhibits and also a better experience for the fairgoers.”

So if you visit the building this year, be sure to actually take note of the information that’s available inside. If you get distracted looking at the walls though, it’ll be understandable. Stanfield would consider it a compliment.

“We’re going to do it like it’s supposed to be or we’re not going to do it,” he said while the building was still under construction. “That’s the way I feel about it. What I tell all the contractors is, ‘go the extra mile. It’s never crowded,’ and that’s the way we’re going to do this building.”

About Tractor Pull

Tractor Pull is the fair-themed alias for Brandon Herring, a public information officer in the Public Affairs Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. He's no stranger to the fair or the farm. A North Carolina native, he grew up helping on the family farm just east of Lumberton. After more than 15 years in TV news, he's sharing news of a different kind these days. He loves the rides on the fair's midway, but also loves that the fair has so many other things to see and do that are grounded in agriculture. His favorite fair food is a funnel cake with just powdered sugar - a classic!

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