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Fans Flock To Festivities At N.C. State Fair

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RALEIGH, N.C. — It has been a bumpy ride leading up to the fair. The scandal inside the State Agriculture Department led to a last-minute change in who is running the rides, but now, that is in the past. Fair-goers Friday seemed pleased with the midway.

Bruce Butler came to the fair with his son's second-grade class.

"I was able to get off of work and come in and we have the whole group from Salem Elementary," he said.

Peggy McKoy has worked at the State Fair for years and she said she loves her job.

"I've always loved the fair as a child, and I thought as an adult, since I got a chance to work here, it would be the perfect thing so I can come every day," she said.

The state's Agriculture Department only had a few months to pull this year's fair together. After officials voided the contract that then-State Ag Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps had with Amusements of America, the bid process for the state fair had to be reopened. Strates Shows, who had run the midway for years before Amusements of America took over, won the bid process and the company hopes to win over the popularity of fair-goers.

On Friday, Gov. Mike Easley praised the new commissioner and the department. Interim State Ag Commissioner Britt Cobb said he appreciates the governor's comments. So far, Cobb said he likes what he has seen at this year's fair.

"It's truly a family environment. It's not a theme park. It's not supposed to be. It's a fair," Cobb said.

Cobb said he has told Strates Shows, this year's midway operator, that his expectations are very high.

"An outstanding fair this year does not mean you'll be back next year, but a sub-par fair this year does mean you will not be considered for next year," he said.

Cobb wants this fair to be one of the best in the country and is open to ideas on how to improve it.

"We welcome feedback. We need the feedback because if our customers aren't happy, we need to know it," Cobb said.

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