Janine Davis

Janine Davis

You can tell that fall is really here in the South because county and state fairs in the Carolinas are in full swing. It’s that time of the year for cotton candy, funnel cakes, Ferris Wheels, and more. Those are just some of the staples you’re bound to experience while visiting a local fair.

Fairs date back to over a century. In particular, the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh started 170 years ago, on October 18, 1853, according to the fair’s website.  It reportedly ran for four days and saw huge numbers. Some 4,000 people attended on a single day. There were even cash prizes in plant, animal, and handicraft competitions.

Early notable moments of history happened at the N.C. State Fair

  • 1884 –  Electricity was first used at the fairgrounds
  • 1891 – The first Midway ride, the Switchback Railway, is constructed on the fairgrounds.
  • 1895 – The main attraction is chicken incubators.
  • 1900 – First food booths are on the fairgrounds, run by churches and civic groups as fundraisers.
  • 1905 – President Theodore Roosevelt speaks to fairgoers.
  • 1942 – Fair closes due to World War II, reopens in 1946.
  • 1960 – Adult admission is $.75 and child admission is $.35.

Present Day at N.C. State Fair

In 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time since World War II, the N.C. State Fair was canceled. However, the following year, it came back with a vengeance. Some  824,328 fairgoers celebrated being back together again.  The fair experience was even better now that it had expanded to a new venue. It’s new home was in the historic Dorton Arena. That space offered a more agricultural experience. There was an all-new cooking stage, and a section dedicated to local producers and more.

The N.C. State Fair is the largest 11-day event in North Carolina that now includes not only livestock and produce, but diverse musical acts and entertainment. It’s may be the largest fair in the state, but certainly not the only one. Though the season is winding down for fairs, check out these state and county fairs before they wrap up.


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