Mountain State Fair highlights – BlueRidgeNow.com
What state fair would be complete without deep-fried food, or as fair organizers like to say, â€œDon’t knock it until you fry it.â€
That means fried Oreos, fried cookie dough, fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches â€” the list goes on. According to Ron Stamey, with the Ag Center’s marketing and media, the food is apparently even better when it’s on a stick.
Because the fair is in North Carolina, however, plenty of vendors serve up some mean Southern-style barbecue and dishes. Sirloin tip dinners at The Pickle Barrel come with red-skinned mashed potatoes, onions, peppers and marinated mushrooms for $12 for adult portions or $8 for a â€œkid’s meal,â€ which is really big enough for many people.
With Henderson County’s deep roots in apple farming, the fruit is a must for dessert. Inga’s Apples and Sweet Sensations Apple dumplings both offer dumplings to die for, at around the $6 range. Plenty of other vendors offer candy apples, sliced caramel apples and other desserts to try.
Dozens of educational opportunities exist throughout the fair each day. Taking the Heritage Walk gives people a chance to see Appalachian history and early American culture while watching specialists make molasses, dye wool and do other other age-old tasks such as blacksmithing.
Though the timing may be hard to peg down, watching a live cow birth may be the single coolest chance to learn about farm life at the Mountain State Fair. The Mooternity Ward should have a calf born every day of the festival. A new event this year is Farmer Bill’s Ag-venture, which allows children to try hands-on activities as a way to learn agriculture. Activities include digging for potatoes, driving small tractors and watching baby ducks and a mama pig with her piglets.
â€œThe competitions are what separate the fairs from the festivals,â€ Stamey said. That may be why over $200,000 in prizes will be given to the top competitors in all sorts of events. The general and cooking categories feature events such as woodworking, honey, baked goods and jewelry, and the performance category includes clogging and gospel singing.
The stars of the competitions, however, are cows, pigs, goats and other animals that make up the 3,400-plus entries in 38 categories. The full list of contest categories and the schedule can be found at www.wncagcenter.org.
Ribbons, recognition and a prize purse are the obvious awards at the fair. However, according to Stamey, the bigger picture is the competitions’ contribution toward growing North Carolina’s agriculture, which is saying a lot about an industry that contributes over $75 billion to the state’s economy.
The most impressive cattle competition may be the Open Brahman Show, which is judged at 4 p.m. Monday. The biggest competition is the Dairy Cattle Show sponsored by the WNC Diary Commission, which runs from Friday through Sept. 20 and totals $65,000 in prize money.
The Ferris wheel and bumper cars are staples at any fair, and this one is no different. Over a dozen other rides and games pack the center of the grounds, surrounded by the food vendors.
Shows also pack the schedule, like the time-honored tradition of pig racing. Because of its popularity, the Hogway Speedway goes at least three times each day throughout the duration of the fair. Weekends start at 11 a.m., and the first show during the workweek typically starts at 5 p.m.
A lesser-known but awe-inspiring act features the Kenyan Acrobats, who perform about three to four times per day. Having learned acrobatics as children to escape an impoverished country, the group members now serve as artistic ambassadors for Kenya, inspiring their audiences around the world.
Other shows to check out include the Bojangles Sea Lion Splash, Horses Horses Horses! and the Appalachian Wildlife Refuge.
Each day has a special discount, such as free gate admission Wednesday with five cans of Laura Lynn brand foods from Ingles.
Check out the full schedule and discounts at www.wncagcenter.org.