There's a fun and very popular new addition to the N.C. State Fair's Flower and Garden Show's manicured gardens and creative outdoor decor: A music garden.
In a grassy area dotted with circular picnic tables, you'll find the small structure - wooden beams hanging with old petroleum tanks, cookware and other pieces. Metal mallets are available for kids and adults to bang out a rhythm ... or just bang.
Erv Evans, the Flower and Garden Show's superintendent, tells me that he's wanted to build the music garden for the last three or four years, but he just kept running out of time. This year, he found the time, though it's a scaled back version of his original vision. Based on this year's response, he expects he'll be adding on to it next year and beyond.
"It's been popular," Evans said. "Kids love it."
On Monday morning, three-year-old Elizabeth Wadsworth and 15-month-old Abagail Wadsworth, who are sisters, played away. The lower bar was low enough that even little Abagail could easily reach it.
In fact, the piece has been so popular that the show's staff have had to replace the wooden mallets with sturdier metal ones. It's checked each day for any broken parts. Just a few days into the fair, visitors to the music garden had worn a path in the grass around the piece.
It's one of many new addition to the Flower and Garden Show, which also includes all sorts of plantings; outdoor art; a giant chair and lots of wooden cut outs for photo opps; and two hopscotch courts, another new addition for kids this year. This has always been one of my favorite places at the fair for some quiet, outdoor and free fun off the midway.
"If the kids have fun in the garden, than there parents can enjoy it too" and even take up gardening, Evans said.
The fair runs through Sunday.