The annual North Carolina State Fair opened this year on Thursday, Oct. 17, and will run through Sunday, Oct. 27. The N.C. State Fair was first opened in 1853 by the State Agricultural Society to celebrate North Carolina agriculture. Today, the fair is drastically different from its first incarnation.
Many people that I spoke to at the fair recommended the basics: games, rides and food. In particular, there was a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the food.
The fair offers a wide assortment of sweet, savory and fried foods. Trying at least one of these categories is important, and the weirder, the better. One of the strangest deep-fried fair foods offered was deep-fried Oreos, which are surprisingly delicious and very popular.
One of the main attractions at the fair is the Ferris wheel. There are many Ferris wheels across the fair, but there’s one that is hard to miss. North America’s largest traveling Ferris wheel, standing at 155 feet tall, stands prominently near an entrance to the fair.
This Ferris wheel is $7 to ride and goes around about three times. From the top, there is an amazing view of the Raleigh skyline in the distance and the fairgrounds below. The fair offers a multitude of other rides, such as bumper cars, swings, pirate ships and flying elephants.
The State Fair Ark, a more educational part of the fair, is located in the Exposition Center and features cows, goats, sheep, pigs and chicks to view up close. Attendees can even watch a cow being milked up close or milk a cow themselves for $5 with the NC State Animal Science club. This is one of the only hands-on experiences with animals left at the State Fair.
“We teach the public where their milk comes from,” said Lindsey Britton, a second-year studying animal science and treasurer of the Animal Science Club at NC State. “What we hope people get out of this is how to respect and appreciate where their food comes from … There’s a lot of work and a lot of experience that goes on behind the scenes.”
Also within the Exposition Center were the prize-winning fruits and vegetables. The winners of the 2019 Great Pumpkin and Watermelon Weigh-Off were enormous. The watermelon was 330.5 pounds, and the pumpkin was 1506.5 pounds and set a new state record.
Donnie Johnson, a farmer who grew some of the prize-winning watermelons, explained how to grow the watermelons with elevated surfaces, aeration, and sufficient amounts of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Johnson said that he has been attending the State Fair since he was five or six years old and recommends the Village of Yesteryear.
The Village of Yesteryear houses a multitude of vendors selling handmade crafts. There are wood carvings, hand-woven baskets, glass ornaments and jewelry, pottery, prints and original art, origami, and much more. Each piece of artwork is done by hand and with care. At some booths, you can even watch the vendors create.
Susan Hansen, one of the vendors, was selling origami creations. Her booth was adorned with paper lotus flowers, fish, butterflies and cranes. Hansen said she has been practicing origami for 18 or 19 years and has attended several state fairs across the country. The Village of Yesteryear and the North Carolina State Fair as a whole are great ways to connect with the culture of Raleigh and North Carolina.
Gates for the fair are open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $13 at the gate for attendees ages 13 and up.
For more information about the North Carolina State Fair, visit ncstatefair.org.