North Carolina State Fair

Economy foul? Not at the fair

Posted October 16, 2011 6:32 p.m. EDT
Updated October 17, 2011 8:53 a.m. EDT

Economic worries are a familiar refrain in North Carolina where the official unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent, but thousands of people were able to put aside those concerns and pack the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh over the weekend.

More than 100,000 people passed through the gates on both Saturday and Sunday. With a mostly sunny forecast for the rest of its 10-day run, fair organizers could be looking at another record-setting year. In 2010, fair attendance topped 1 million for the first time. 

Many of the people filling up the fairgrounds Sunday were making a trip that is an annual tradition. 

"My experience is that people plan for it," said Nick Cabron, a caricature artist. "Even when the economic conditions are bad, they seem to have enough money to get what they want."

Vendors of turkey legs and ice cream alike reported steady sales.

Ronald Doege credits the novelty factor. "Usually when the economy is down, fairs are up," he said.

"They're so used to everything in their own town that the fair is something different, and they are willing to go and spend the money," he said. 

Pam Greene knew she would not be able to say no to her son Chase, who is 5. Still, the family looked for savings where they could find them. 

"We bought our tickets ahead of time, so it wasn't that bad," she said.

Vincent Thomas, manager of the Chef's D'Lites stand, is marking a decade at the North Carolina State Fair as a purveyor of fried foods. He sees no evidence that fair-goers are spending less.

"I didn't think we'd be as busy as we were, but it's really been rolling," he said.

"This has been an incredible year for me," he said. "I think yesterday was my best yet. The sales have really been great."

Thomas said he doesn't count on fair sales to make or break him, but rather counts his profits from the fair as an extra blessing.