The State Fair kicks off on Thursday, celebrating its 150th anniversary.
Along with the usual staples like the giant pumpkin and watermelon competitions – in 2014 the pumpkin weighed a whopping 1,404 pounds – are some new treats for fairgoers to try. There's deep fried pumpkin pie and Cheerwine funnel cake, a booth that takes old-time photos, and an ostrich rider.
Also, flights of beer and wine will be available this year for the first time ever.
To celebrate one and a half centuries, the N.C. State Fair will open Thursday at a special price of just $1.50. “The 150th N.C. State Fair is a milestone, and we wanted to do something special to celebrate,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.
Regular adult admission price is $10.
Although the N.C. State Fair has been around since 1853, it hasn’t opened every year. Stoppages were caused by the Civil War and Reconstruction, the disbanding of the group that used to run the fair, and World War II.
A 2013 incident with the ride Vortex that left five people injured is still on the minds of fair organizers, and access to the fairgrounds has been restricted since Sept. 29.
“In recent years, we have seen more and more people coming out to the fairgrounds in the days leading up to the fair, and with all the vehicles, heavy equipment, carnival rides and workers moving around on the grounds during that time, the crowds have created a risk for themselves and the workers,” said Wesley Wyatt, State Fair manager. “We want to make sure everyone has room to do their jobs as safely as possible.”
Every year, organizers publish attendance figures, and will look to break the record of nearly 1.02 million set in 2010. Here are some other numbers to keep an eye on this year:
- 1,091,887 – Fairgoers for record attendance (record was set in 2010)
- 20 – Giant pumpkins competing in the Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off
- 18 – Giant watermelons competing in the Giant Watermelon Weigh Off
- 224 – Food vendors (184 independent vendors and 40 on the midway)
- 2,400 - Rolls of toilet paper (or 900 miles)
- 25,674 - Competitive exhibits entered into the 2016 State Fair
- $1.50 – Admission the first day
- 40 – breweries and wineries featured in the Our State Public House (this is the first year alcohol will be sold at the fair)
- 250,000 – Daily programs printed
- $166,500 – Raised by the Livestock Sale of Champions in 2016
- 198 – Entries into the Folk Festival held daily in Dorton Arena
- 100 – Rides
- 35 – Age of Big Smokey in the Forestry Exhibit. He’s been talking to fairgoers since 1982.
- 118 – Concerts held as part of the Fair’s Homegrown Music Series
- 104 – Logs in the new Public House in Heritage Circle
- 14 – Minutes for a round trip State Fair Flyer ride
- 126 – Carriers on the Fair Flyer
- 40 – Height, in feet, of the waterfall