Hundreds of thousands of people will flock to west Raleigh in the next couple of weeks for the N.C. State Fair. The big event opens Thursday and runs through Oct. 27.
I checked in with Brian Long, public affairs director for the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service, which includes the State Fair, to get some general tips for families headed to the fair with kids. If you're planning a trip to what's being called "North Carolina's Homecoming" this year, be sure to peruse this list of tips before you go.
Go Ask Mom: Can parents of young children ride for free on some rides? Which ones?
Long: Children under 40-inches tall can ride for free when accompanied by a paying adult 16 years of age or older on Merrie Go Rounds and slides. The adult must accept guardian responsibility and use good judgment when choosing which of the available rides to allow a young child to ride. On other rides, the accompanying adult must pay to ride with the child.
GAM: Where are the stroller and wagon vendors?
Long: Stroller and wagon rentals are at Gates 1, 8, 9 and 10.
GAM: What can you bring into the fair? Are coolers OK?
Long: You can bring food and beverage into the fair. Coolers are OK, but gate staff may need to look through extra bags/coolers for security purposes.
GAM: What are the rules on tickets for kids in the concerts at Dorton Arena?
Long: Everyone age 2 and older, or any child who will need to occupy a seat, will need a ticket.
GAM: When is the best time to go to the fair to beat the crowds? Which days have the lowest attendance?
Long: To beat the crowds, we recommend Friday, Oct. 18, and Monday, Oct. 21. Historically, the first Friday and Monday are our lowest-attended days. [But a big note:] This year, the first Friday may be a little heavier because Wake County schools are releasing early that day. Of course, any morning is always a great time for smaller crowds and shorter lines at rides and exhibits.
GAM: What are the fair's recommendations on contact with animals?
Long: Our general recommendation is to pay attention to the signs. If you see a sign that says “Don’t touch the animals,” please don’t touch them. These signs will be at areas where animals are housed for livestock shows or display. Do not take strollers or food into these areas.
We always stress that people wash their hands after exiting animal areas, whether they’ve touched an animal or not. Hand-washing stations are strategically placed throughout the fairgrounds.
GAM: What are other don't miss spots, activities, events and performances for families?
Long: We have several new free grounds acts this year. Check out the free entertainment page on our website. Of note are the Gantry Bike, Wacky Wheeler and K9s in Flight. Also new are Karen Quest and Hansen’s Spectacular Acrobatic Sensations.
Canstruction is a new exhibit in Dorton Arena. It’s a scale model of Dorton Arena made from around 13,000 cans, water bottles (windows) and small food boxes. It is about 9 feet tall at its peaks, and is 20 feet long, with a 10-foot depth. We’ve also included a Hunger Action Wall with facts on food insecurity in North Carolina. For example, 1 in 4 children in North Carolina is food insecure, and 56 percent of children in North Carolina receive free or reduced lunch. Our mission was to promote awareness of hunger in North Carolina, and we believe the facts we are presenting will help educate the public.
Some other items to note:
Fairgoers can bring five cans of Food Lion brand food to the N.C. State Fair on Thursday, Oct. 24, to exchange for one free admission ticket. This is an increase in the number of cans needed to get in free. The increase was prompted by the Food Bank's need for more food to serve the needy.
To avoid the hassle of finding parking at the fair, you can hop on a bus. Click here for schedules and more information.
And, if you're there this Friday, be sure to drop by the WRAL booth. I'll be there from 10 a.m. to noon! Click here to see the full schedule in the WRAL tent next to Dorton Arena.