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Power Outage Hits State Fair Saturday As Final Weekend Winds Down

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RALEIGH — It is the final weekend of the 2001 North Carolina State Fair.The food, the fun and the rides continue through Sunday.

About half of the State Fairgrounds lost power around 9:35 p.m. Saturday when electrical circuits failed, a fair spokesman said.

Fair spokesman Mike Blanton said the faulty circuits were in two distribution boxes of Carolina Power & Light. The boxes provide power to the permanent buildings on the State Fairgrounds, including Dorton Arena and several buildings that hold exhibits.

Rick Spencer, 49, of Claremont, said he and his family were not worried when the lights suddenly went out.

"We really thought they cut the lights for the the fireworks to start,'' Spencer said.

The fair's midway remained open after the power outage, about 10 minutes before the fair's nightly fireworks show. Many of the about 100,000 people at the fair decided to leave the fairgrounds after the fireworks, which is not unusual, fair officials said. Fair officials did not evacuate the grounds.

"People are still enjoying themselves on the rides and games,'' fair manager Wesley Wyatt said.

Mark Cherry, 25, of Raleigh, did have his enjoyment cut short by the power outage.

"We were in one of the Jim Graham buildings when the lights went out,'' Cherry said. "There was no panic though.''

Mike Pleasant, the assistant fair manager, said light towers were being brought into the darkened parts of the fairgrounds.

Security officials did not find any evidence of tampering with the electrical circuits, Blanton said. The distribution boxes are locked, and only a few people have access to them, he said.

CP&L workers were expected to repair the problem before the fair reopens at 9 a.m Sunday for for its last day, Blanton said.

The usually-crowded fair looks a little less frenzied this year. Overall, attendance at the fair has been down compared to last year, which set

attendance records


Thursday's Winn-Dixie Day at the Fair canned food drive was expected to drive up fair traffic for the day. Numbers were still down from last year's record attendance, though.

Fair officials say that 84,974 people attended the fair Thursday, down 11,929 from the same day last year.The number brings the total attendance figures so far to 420,569, down 120,794 from the 2000 fair.

Highlights of the fair this weekend include a concert by the Village People and a visit from U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole on Sunday.

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