North Carolina State Fair

Economy foul? Not at the fair

Posted October 16, 2011
Updated October 17, 2011

Economic worries are a familiar refrain in North Carolina where the official unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent, but thousands of people were able to put aside those concerns and pack the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh over the weekend.

More than 100,000 people passed through the gates on both Saturday and Sunday. With a mostly sunny forecast for the rest of its 10-day run, fair organizers could be looking at another record-setting year. In 2010, fair attendance topped 1 million for the first time. 

money changing hands Despite downturn, crowds keep coming to fair

Many of the people filling up the fairgrounds Sunday were making a trip that is an annual tradition. 

"My experience is that people plan for it," said Nick Cabron, a caricature artist. "Even when the economic conditions are bad, they seem to have enough money to get what they want."

Vendors of turkey legs and ice cream alike reported steady sales.

Ronald Doege credits the novelty factor. "Usually when the economy is down, fairs are up," he said.

"They're so used to everything in their own town that the fair is something different, and they are willing to go and spend the money," he said. 

Pam Greene knew she would not be able to say no to her son Chase, who is 5. Still, the family looked for savings where they could find them. 

"We bought our tickets ahead of time, so it wasn't that bad," she said.

Vincent Thomas, manager of the Chef's D'Lites stand, is marking a decade at the North Carolina State Fair as a purveyor of fried foods. He sees no evidence that fair-goers are spending less.

"I didn't think we'd be as busy as we were, but it's really been rolling," he said.

"This has been an incredible year for me," he said. "I think yesterday was my best yet. The sales have really been great."

Thomas said he doesn't count on fair sales to make or break him, but rather counts his profits from the fair as an extra blessing.


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  • quaten Oct 17, 2011

    ... anyway, We're not going. We're saving money for the toll charges next year on the new 540 extension "High-Dollar Highway". Love to go, cant afford it. Sorry.

  • quaten Oct 17, 2011

    Ahhh... the fair.

    Where else can you find,
    of fashion and fame.
    Such fair weather friends,
    of scoundral and shame.

    Where else can you feast,
    on such rare a fare.
    Of oddly fried food,
    and sugar spun hair.

    Where else might you give, a token for naught. Yet keep to tell all, the fun that was bought.

    It's here once a year, foul weather or fair. Stay home if you like, or dare to be there.

  • working for deadbeats Oct 17, 2011

    "We would like to go to the fair. I think they are ripping people off charging $8 to get through the gate. That's absurd. People pay it and they KNOW they will pay it. It's extortion at its finest. Good old NC........greed, greed, greed! Give the poor folks a chance to take their families.....darn!!!"

    I wonder if the occupy Raleigh people will take on this issue.

  • ElvisPresleyJr Oct 17, 2011

    I am glad that there are those that can afford to go and have a good time at the fair. It really is an escape from reality, such like going to a movie, and the kids i'm sure enjoy it. Unfortunately, there are many of us who over the years have attended, but simply cannot afford to do so these days. I jumped on the bandwagon and cancelled my Directv and cut back in other areas as well. If I have learned anything in my lifetime, it's the difference between WANTING and NEEDING. I don't need the fair....i need to buy gas to get to work..and I need to work to keep the lights on and food on the table. End of story.

  • ellengraham5660 Oct 17, 2011

    We would like to go to the fair. I think they are ripping people off charging $8 to get through the gate. That's absurd. People pay it and they KNOW they will pay it. It's extortion at its finest. Good old NC........greed, greed, greed! Give the poor folks a chance to take their families.....darn!!!

  • working for deadbeats Oct 17, 2011

    Hmmmmmmm, let's see. At 3.35 a gallon for gas, I'll keep limiting my drives to work and other essentials. The fair is not one of them anymore. If you've seen the fair once, you've seen it a thousand times.

  • Garnerwolf1 Oct 17, 2011

    It is what it is. If you don't want to pay, don't go. We all have to make decisions all day long. Make one and stop whining about it. Movies are expensive, as are ball games, etc. The Fair doesn't owe you anything. As someone else said, $5 can get you in. You don't have to spend another dime.

  • Z Man Oct 17, 2011

    bubbaduke, you don't have to turn everything into a political conversation!! The fair is not a waste of money for people wanting to have a good time once per year! In fact, if one million people spend an average of $30 at the fair this year, that is a very good injection of cash flow into the NC economy.

    Sounds like the someone left the doors to California open again.

  • Z Man Oct 17, 2011

    Took wife and daughter. Ate some and daughter did some rides. $7 sandwiches and $4-$6 rides (per minute for goodness sake). Offset by looking at 4H projects, vegetables, quilts, cakes, cookies, etc. Not exactly what I'd call a good value.

  • bikely Oct 17, 2011

    All the complaining about the Fair being expensive??!!! Advance tickets are $5, and you don't have to spend a dime after that if you don't want to. Pack in your own snacks, drinks and lunch if you want, and spend all day. WAYYYY cheaper than going to the movies! (Now THAT is a rip off)