Every year, the North Carolina State Fair rolls into town and brings a kaleidoscope of colors, an air of excitement and the alluring aroma of deep-fried food. “Hey, you! You want to win a Prize?” “Girls always win!” “Come right up.” These are examples of remarks that beckon visitors to partake in the games of chance as they tour the largest 11-day event in North Carolina.
This year we embarked on our second visit to the North Carolina State Fair, and while the initial ‘first time’ rush of excitement had waned, the experience remained an enjoyable adventure. Immediately, the most crucial task of the evening arised: filling our cravings for funnel cake and fried Oreos. Although there were many food trucks, discernment became our guiding principle in determining the perfect balance between price and quality. Next, we moved on to rides and games. Unfortunately, without bae to win us prizes, we decided not to use our own money for the rigged festival games.
So, why do thousands of Carolinians flock to the North Carolina State Fair every year? From the dizzying rides to the unique food offerings and the hint of romance in the crisp October air, the North Carolina State Fair has something for everyone. To dive into the heart of the tradition, we interviewed several attendees to hear their unique perspectives.
For Leo Cortez, a first-year Exploratory Studies major at NC State, this year was his first time visiting the fair. While he admitted to being skeptical about the food, he was entranced by the fair’s magic. “The atmosphere and all the lights on the rides look cool and have a good vibe to them.” Leo’s sentiment was clear, he’d return for the sheer experience and the cool rides.
In contrast, Edmond Doe, a second-year Mechanical Engineer major at NC State, had a different tale to tell. He came for the fair’s culinary delights, particularly the infamous funnel cakes. Conversely, rides did not earn his favor. Doe mentioned waiting in never ending lines. “Those lines are my least favorite part of the fair, one looked at least a 30 to 45 minute wait and I decided to just not go on,” said Doe. His most unforgettable memory was the aftermath of a spinning ride that induced motion sickness. “The height of some of the rides definitely surprised me,” he said. “The purpose of the state fair is to just have fun, it comes here once a year. When it comes in October you just have the most fun you can and enjoy it.”
Joys Lutwangu, a second-year Political Science major, revealed that it was the allure of the fair that lured her back. She emphasized the vast array of food and the captivating rides, all while underlining the fair’s appeal to both families and young people. “Every corner you turn there’s food and fun rides from the ferris wheel to the zip line. I think this is good for families and young people,” Lutwangu said. Though the lines can be long and strenuous, Lutwangu enjoyed the bonding element and said, “I feel like the line part is where you get to observe and see the fair for what it is and have long conversations with your friends about anything.” She advised fair goers to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the state fair, but be wary of buying unlimited ride passes on busy days because you won’t have the ability to ride as many rides as expected.
Xander Seacrest, a second-year Business Administration major, underlined the sense of community and atmosphere. He mentioned that riding on the ferris wheel with his girlfriend was his most memorable moment, but dreaded the prices, labeling them as “scams.” His advice to newcomers was to pre-order tickets for a more budget-friendly experience. “The food, barbeque, pretty inclusive, and fun American Culture. USA!” Xander said enthusiastically.
The state fair brings together families, couples and friends, extending an open invitation to all. Yet, among the diverse experiences and opinions of these fairgoers, it is clear that one person’s treasure may be another’s trash. While Cortez wouldn’t touch the fair’s food with a 9-foot pole, Doe eagerly awaited his annual treats. Doe resented the long lines, while Joys embraced them as a chance to bond with friends.
Beyond the carnival rides and joyful screams of fairgoers lies a crucial, yet often overlooked, aspect of the State Fair; its rich agricultural heritage.
The fair’s origins date back to 1853 when the State Agricultural Society held the first State Fair to promote and celebrate North Carolina’s agricultural heritage. The event was four days long and attracted over 4,000 attendees. Currently, the State Fair has evolved into the largest 11-day event in North Carolina and attracts over 800,000 attendees annually. However, even after 170 years, the fair still prides itself on creating opportunities for urban populations to learn about agriculture and the state’s rich history.
Every year, the fair highlights Farm Family of the Day and awards over $600,000 in prize money through competitive exhibits of livestock, horticulture, art and much more. As you walk through the fairgrounds, take a moment to appreciate the prize-winning livestock, the colorful displays of homegrown produce and the craftsmanship of agricultural exhibits. The North Carolina State Fair is not merely an amusement park that appears once a year, it’s a reflection of the state’s deep-rooted connection to agriculture. It’s a living testament to North Carolina’s rural heritage and the state’s cultural history.
This year, the State Fair will be running from Oct. 12 – 22 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. Each week, the fair hosts special event days and offers discounted ticket prices such as Prime Time with the Pack and Hunger Relief Day on Oct. 19.
The State Fair is a time-honored tradition that encapsulates the essence of North Carolina, both in its modern-day thrills and deep agricultural roots.
Whether you visit the North Carolina State Fair for the exhilarating rides, unforgettable fair food, jumbo prizes or the fair’s agricultural side, soak in the lively atmosphere. We recommend you go at least once, for the experience.