I like to call the annual Got to Be NC Festival a kind of mini fair. You have the rides, the animals and the displays. You don't have the parking or admission fees.
The festival runs Friday to Sunday at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in west Raleigh and features local food and barbecue, live music and a bluegrass band competition, farm animals, racing pigs, fireworks and one of the largest antique tractor and farm equipment displays in the southeast.
I checked in with fair staff to get some tips and suggestions for families. Here's what they shared:
- There are a couple of rides where parents can ride for free with young children. One parent may accompany a child under 40 inches in height at no additional cost when the child presents a paid ticket for the carousel or slide rides only.
- On both Friday and Sunday, the festival will offer ride-all-day wristbands in the carnival for $20.
- Want to beat the crowds? Go Friday afternoon or Sunday morning. The festival opens at noon, Friday. On Sunday, all buildings and attractions open at 10 a.m.
- The popular tractor parade is at 1 p.m.., Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, from noon to 6 p.m. on the midway, the festival will have a drive-in of more than 100 trucks from Lifted Trucks USA. The vehicles, with modified suspensions to lift them up, also will be part of Sunday's tractor parade.
- Fireworks will light up the night at 9:15 p.m., Friday and Saturday.
- The Kidz Corral featuring a variety of animals and the baby chicks will return to the Agri-Plaza located between the Expo Center and Graham Building. There's also a new Quack-n-Slide duck slide, long horn cattle and a mini-donkey display. The area also includes pig races and pony rides (which require a fee to ride).
- On Friday, the Grandstand will offer demonstrations from the Wake County Sheriff's Canine Unit at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. The DogGoneFast Flyball demonstrations are at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. And the Flag Presentations on Horseback are at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
- Extreme sports lovers will want to head over to Dorton Arena. On Saturday, it hosts a Park and Flatland competition. On Sunday, it will offer a street and jumping competition as part of the Raleigh Trans Jam BMX Contest.
- And, always worth watching, the Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show featuring world champion lumberjacks will showcase two-man cross-cut sawing, hot saw racing, axe throwing, underhand chopping, chainsaw carving and log rolling.
Festival hours are noon to 10 p.m., Friday; 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday; and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday.