Faring well at the fair: Nearly one million attend – The Daily Tar Heel


The N.C. State Fair, located on Blue Ridge Road, had an estimated attendance of around a million.

Through Saturday, more than 912 thousand people attended this year’s fair. The final count will be available this week, but many are optimistic about the potential for record-high turnouts.

“If we have a good strong weekend, we could get to one million this year,” said Brian Long, spokesperson for the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.

This would be the third time in the fair’s history where attendance was more than one million, Long said.

“It’s setting up to be a good closing weekend. Whether we get to that million mark, we’ll just have to see, but we have reason to be hopeful,” he said

As the state fair is an enterprise fund — meaning it is not funded by the state government — Long said gate admission is a large source of revenue.

“In addition to that, the payment the fair receives from the carnival company is based on what the paid attendance is,” he said.

These two major sources of revenue help pay for upkeep and improvements of the fairgrounds year-round.

But to draw people to the fair, something has to pique their interest.

“We always have to strike a balance,” Long said.

“Vendors are creative, and they bring in new items each year, but we also know that a lot of fairgoers come to the fair because they want that tradition of getting that candy apple, or that corn dog, or that funnel cake.”

He said they try to keep a broad spectrum of foods each year — food vendors are able to experiment the most with their products.

“There are foods that they’ll try one year, and if they don’t catch on after about two years, they’ll do something different,” he said.

Some vendors entice customers with more creative items. Stephanie Walker of the 1853 Grill said in their 15 years at the fair, people come to their shop for the deep-fried foods.

“The newest thing is the ‘Fry Me Over the Moon Pie,’” she said.

“It’s a moon pie cut in half with three Oreos, a cupcake cut in half and a Reese’s cup all put together and then we deep-fry it.”

Walker said it’s had a great response from the public so far.

1853 Grill also boasted fair favorites like deep-fried Oreos and funnel cakes.

But other vendors keep their menu more traditional.

Steve Smith, owner of Smitty’s Apples, has had the same menu items for 20 years. He said his apple dumplings have been his most popular item, and he doesn’t really understand the trend towards deep-fried foods.

“Its full of vitamin G — grease,” he said.