The Got to Be NC Festival runs this Friday through Sunday at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
The annual event is sort of a mini N.C. State Fair with rides, animals, demonstrations, games and more. But here's the great part about it: It's free! There is no fee for either parking or admission.
I checked in with folks at the N.C. Department of Agriculture to find out about what's new this year and what parents will want to know about. Here's what they told me:
1. One parent may accompany a child under 40" in height at no additional cost when the child presents a paid ticket for the carousel or slide rides only.
2. Want to beat the crowds? Early mornings are always best. Festival gates open at noon, Friday, and 9 a.m., Saturday and Sunday. The carnival and building and exhibit hours start at noon, Friday, and 10 a.m., Saturday and Sunday.
3. The animal displays are expanded this year in the Agri-Plaza. The plaza will include a sow and her piglets, a chicken hatchery, dairy goat demonstration, the Southland Dairy Mobile Milking Classroom, alpacas, sheep and cows. The festival also is a stop on the 2014 Tour D'Coop, which highlights backyard chickens in Raleigh. Backyard Poultry Production classes will be taught in the Agri-Plaza at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily, with veterinarians on site all day to answer questions.
4. You can take advantage of an N.C. State Fair ticket deal if you go to the festival. The N.C. State Fair, starting this year, will have a new mascot named Casey Cardinal. This weekend, during Casey's Big Ticket Weekend," 2015 fairgoers can buy discounted fair tickets of $5 each for adult admission. Just six tickets are allowed per customer. And it's cash only. Only 2,500 discounted tickets will be available. Tickets will be available at the ticket booth near the waterfall and are first come, first served until they are sold out. Ticket booth hours are noon to 8 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday. The N.C. State Fair is in Oct. 15 to Oct. 25.
5. And there are some fun, new attractions planned this year and old favorites returning.
- Storyteller Tyris Jones of Laurinburg joins the Waterfall Stage and Agri-Plaza lineup this year, with daily performances.
- The Grandstand will host a variety of animal attractions on Friday, including demonstrations by the DogGoneFast Flyball Club. Flyball is a relay race featuring dogs leaping hurdles and catching tennis balls.
- Also at the Grandstand Friday, there will be flag presentations on horseback and demonstrations by the Wake County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit.
- In the Children’s Barnyard area, visitors can watch Clicks of Confidence with Lauryn Zepeda and her mustang Gringo, who will delight audiences each day with tricks Gringo has learned through positive reinforcement. Zepeda has spent the past seven years coaching horses in Brunswick County. Using a tool called a “clicker,” Zepeda encourage her horses to sit, lie down and side-step.
- The action-packed, educational and humorous Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show will take place daily near the Rabbit Barn.
- Festival mainstays, the racing pigs of the Hogway Speedway, will be back again near the midway.
- At 9:15 p.m., Friday and Saturday, festival visitors can enjoy fireworks presented by Brinkley Entertainment.
- For the first time, the festival will host a Rabbit and Cavy Show, complete with “Rabbit Hop” Agility Shows every afternoon.
It all happens at the N.C. State Fairgrounds off Blue Ridge Road in west Raleigh.