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NC State Fair: Masks, vaccinations encouraged, but not required

The North Carolina State Fair is encouraging all guests of this year's event to get vaccinated for COVID-19, in addition to wearing a face covering at the event, according to safety guidelines released Wednesday.

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Kathy Hanrahan
, WRAL lifestyle editor
RALEIGH, N.C. — The North Carolina State Fair is encouraging all guests of this year's event to get vaccinated for COVID-19, in addition to wearing a face covering at the event, according to safety guidelines released Wednesday.

"While we will not require proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test for admission to the fair, we strongly encourage everyone to go out and get vaccinated. If you’re not vaccinated and plan to attend, we urge you to find the time to get vaccinated – both for your safety, and the safety of others," fair officials said in a press release.

Free COVID-19 vaccinations will be available at the fair this year. Cary United Methodist Church is partnering with Wake County Public Health, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and FEMA to offer the vaccine in its restaurant space located near the end of restaurant row by Dorton Arena.

Guests will not be required to wear face coverings or masks to enter the event, but they are recommended. Disposable masks will be available at ticket gates and guest services.

After being canceled last year due to COVID-19, the annual event returns to the N.C. State Fairgrounds Oct. 14 through 24.

While the fair is spread out of 345-acres, it can become crowded in some spaces, officials said.

"The number one thing people tell us they come to the fair for is food. This makes it extremely difficult on our staff and public safety officers to enforce a mask mandate. We are urging you to do your part and wear your face covering except when you are eating and drinking and when you cannot remain socially distanced, especially inside buildings and tents," officials said.

Those attending the fair are also encouraged to look at the best days and times to attend the event to avoid larger crowds.

"If you want to beat the crowds, consider attending on one of our weekdays, or before lunch each day. These are the times you’ll be in contact with smaller gatherings of people," officials said, noting that the first Friday of the fair (Oct. 15 this year) is traditionally the day with the smallest attendance.

While at the fair, guests are encouraged to socially distance.

"While one portion of the fairgrounds may be busy, head out to explore somewhere you’ve never visited. We’ve spread out our vendors and some of our carnival rides this year and added more space around picnic tables and benches to better aid social distancing," officials said.

Hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer will also be available throughout the fairgrounds.

Officials are encouraging those who are considering attending the fair to get current information about the spread of COVID-19 in the state and stay home if they are feeling sick.

The fair is also recommending that anyone who attends the event who is not vaccinated be tested for COVID-19 three to five days after attending the fair.

Last month, health officials said that the big crowds packing football stadiums and downtown streets haven't led to a spike in coronavirus infections.

Since the pandemic began in North Carolina, only eight clusters, totaling 136 cases statewide, have been tied to concerts, festivals and sporting events, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. A cluster is defined as five or more coronavirus cases that can be linked together.

“Right now, we really have not been seeing cases tied to these events," said Jermaine Walker, part of a 20-person team of contact tracers in Wake County investigating positive cases. "The community at large is doing a good job of requiring the masks."

Still, Walker said, even though clusters haven't been tied to concerts and festivals locally, that’s not to say some people didn’t get infected.

Clear bag policy, new vendors

For the first time, there will be a clear bag policy at the fair. Bags of any size will be allowed, as long as they are clear, organizers said, noting that wristlets, diaper bags and medical equipments bags are exceptions to the rule but will be inspected before entry. The clear bag policy does apply to purses.

State Fair officials say that attendees can either bring a clear bag to the fair or put the contents of their bag into a clear bag while going through security, then put those items back in their personal bag afterward.

There will be 40 new vendors at this year's fair. In addition, some popular attractions and exhibits have moved.

The N.C. Public House, which showcases locally-made beers, wines, ciders and sodas, will be moved to a new location in the South Dorton Arena lobby. Tickets can be purchased for two servings of wine, cider or beer. Wine servings are 3 ounces each, and beer or cider servings are 8 ounces each. The Got to Be NC Agriculture Pavilion has also moved into Dorton Arena.

To purchase tickets to the fair, visit the NC State Fair website.


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