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 (though you will need to pay for rides, among other things, if you go).
Some tips if you're going with kids:
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? Get there as soon as gates open at noon, Friday. Organizers also suggest going in the morning on Saturday or Sunday. Gates open at 9 a.m. those days.
3. The State Fair Flyer, which opened at last year's fair and lets visitors soar over the midway, will be open from noon to 8 p.m., Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday. Tickets are $5 one way or $8 round trip. And those tickets are separate from carnival tickets and are not included with the unlimited ride wristband.
3. The festival this year includes several new attractions, including more kids' pedal tractor pulls, lots of baby pigs and a bulldozer sandbox. Here are the details:
Baby pigs! At the Pig Patch Birthing Center, they'll be expecting a new litter of piglets each day. It's open noon to 8 p.m., Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday. Find it at the Midway near the antique tractors.
More kids' pedal tractor pulls! Thanks to demand, the festival will have three tractor pulls for kids instead of the usual one. They take place at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., Friday, and 11 a.m., Saturday. Kids can win a ribbon.
Bulldozers! Kids won't get to operate the bulldozers, but they will love watching them do their thing in the bulldozer sandbox in the Grandstand. It's open noon to 8 p.m., Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday.
Giant mural! Kids can add their own touches to a giant mural in the festival's Kidz Corral. It's open noon to 8 p.m., Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday.
Crafts! The Heritage Crafts Corner will be in the Graham Building and feature crafters making corn shuck dolls, pocket pillowcases, traditional loom spinning, alpaca fiber spinning, manual wood lathe turning, fiddle making and more. It's open noon to 8 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday.
Sand sculpture! Ed Moore, the artist behind SandyFeat, and his team will create a giant sand masterpiece. They'll be working all weekend.
And, of course, old favorites are returning.
- Fireworks are at 9:15 p.m., Friday and Saturday.
- The Antique Farm Equipment parade is 1 p.m., daily. Dozens of pieces will tour the fairgrounds.
- The Grandstand features Wake County Sheriff's K9 Unit demonstrations, antique tractor pulls and flag presentations on horseback.
- The Agri-Plaza, between the Jim Graham and Expo buildings, includes opportunities to see baby chicks hatch on the spot, learn how to manage your own backyard chickens, milk a cow, learn how to milk a goat and see a variety of other animals.
- Pig races happen multiple times each day on the Hogway Speedway near the Martin Building.
- And, finally, rabbit agility shows, which I wrote about a couple of years ago at the State Fair, are planned.
It all happens at the N.C. State Fairgrounds off Blue Ridge Road in west Raleigh.