2020 NC State Fair- Is It Still Even A Fair?!?

October 19, 2020

As COVID-19 continues to sweep across the United States, yearly customs and adored events have been postponed or even canceled entirely. The NC State Fair, an annual tradition for locals and a go-to attraction for visitors, draws in hundreds of thousands during the 10 days it’s open. Last year, it was said that a staggering 938,029 people attended the fair with the highest in 2010 at 1,091,887 attendees! Evidently, this event fosters crowds. Hosted in October since 1928, the State Fair has been a personal favorite of mine. With so many different rides and activities to choose from: from the classic Ferris wheel to hanging on a bar for 90 seconds at a chance of winning a stuffed animal, my family loves attending. Here’s a video I uploaded on my Vlog Channel of our 2018 trip (note: this was my first time using a different GoPro, so the footage is quite raw): https://youtu.be/EmOq70QIzaA 

This year, everything EXCEPT 22 fair food vendors has been called off. Until October 25, people are still able to go to Raleigh and find treats such as turkey legs, alligator kabobs, Fried Oreos, and funnel cakes. Here’s a complete list of the food available, provided by NC State Fair’s official website: https://www.ncstatefair.org/documents/FairFoodEventMenu.pdf 

Most vendors are cash only and open from 10 am to 8:30 pm each day until Saturday. State Fair officials released a statement explaining, “There are many people ready to get out of the house and move around. The State Fairgrounds has provided extra space for social distancing between food booths, we have placed additional handwashing stations in the area and vendors are providing hand sanitizer near their points of sale.” While face masks and social distancing are required and the fair is meant to be a take-home event, it has been noted from attendees that the rules were not enforced; many took off their masks to eat and drink, and with areas swarmed and lines progressively enlarging, there was little room for proper social distancing. 

Lines form for the Ragin Cajun Food Truck.

While I was stuck at home doing college applications (ah when will it end!!!), the rest of my family decided to go check out the fair. I had them report back to me with their findings. 

My mom claims she felt no difference in terms of the food and everything felt the same. She was happy that the parking and entrance fee were both FREE *unlike normal years*, yet annoyed that not everyone wore face masks. My sister, a current Green Hope freshmen, claims that the best part of the State Fair IS the food, and she was just glad to get a corn-on-a-cob and cotton candy. 

They had somewhat limited viewpoints, but when I turned to my dad, he had quite a bit more to say. Here are some quotes I caught from his rambling: “Imagine the normal fair with all the food stands still there. All the [food] trucks were available, there were a lot of people, it was amazingly crowded AND we didn’t even go during prime time. There were basically no parking spaces!!! I felt bad because everywhere had huge lines beside one place– the fudge truck.” Overall, he was glad he went. 

Following the fair’s new guidelines, my family did not eat the food purchased until they arrived back home, to my delight. I noted that turkey legs are not the best eaten cold, candied apples are deceivingly bitter, and be CAUTIOUS as the sugary Lemonade draws in ants!!! 

Nevertheless, NC’s State Fair is a classic tradition, one that I’m glad was able to be kept partially alive, even during these suboptimal conditions. The fair food embodies everything Southern and uniquely North Carolinian and if you’ve never gone, I recommend attending this year’s (if you aren’t afraid of some crowds) or making plans for future visits! 

Party on Falcons, not literally though 🙂