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Organizers Prepare the Midway for the N.C. State Fair

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RALEIGH — TheNorth Carolina State Fairopens Friday, and people are working to have the midway ready. But, this year's fair could feel the effects of Hurricane Floyd.

However, a pretty good weather forecast has left the crowd preparing for the fair optimistic.

The Sasser family from Wayne County has begun preparing its stall for the state fair in spite of the fact that they are still cleaning up from some serious flooding back home.

"For these kids and parents that do these projects and mess with these animals all summer, it's a pretty big deal. It would probably take a little more than a major flood to keep them at home," said James Sasser.

As far as how Floyd's flooding will affect all the agricultural competitions, the forecast remains mixed.

"It's going to be hard to say. The last I heard we were a little down on our livestock, but we were up on our home economics area," said Wes Wyatt, state fair manager.

Even with advanced ticket sales down 5 percent, the state fair manager will not rule out another record year of attendance.

"We're certainly hopeful that we can. We did set a record last year. We had excellent weather, and if we are given the same opportunity with the weather forecast, we feel like we have the right package to again have a super attendance, possibly breaking last year's," said Wyatt.

Food stand owner J.B. Lewis agrees, noting other disasters have not put a damper on the fair.

"Sometimes, like after Fran three years ago, it was actually good. People wanted to get out and make themselves happy," said Lewis.

There are some new attractions at this year's fair. Eight Bengal tigers bring some spice from the East to the fair, and organizers have a feeling that the tigers may steal the show.

"People are really astonished by seeing how we mingle with these guys and how they lick us and play on us and tackle us," said trainer Khris Allen.

There is also a huge waterfall that was modeled after a less permanent structure that was taken down in the late 1960s.

"It's a real focal point of the fair. It's a meeting place not only for the fair but for all the events we have throughout the year," said Wyatt.

The waterfall is part of a $900,000 project that also includes some special lighting around the outside of Dorton Arena and a new paint job for the Jim Graham Building.

Tickets to the fair for adults are $6 at the gate. Children 6 through 12 are $1. Seniors 65 and over and children 5 and under are free. Group rates are also available.

However, not everything costs money at the fair. There is some free parking, but parking at the fair is a zoo. Changes this year could make it a little confusing for veteran fairgoers.

Parking is available off Trinity Road at Carter-Finley Stadium and off of Blue Ridge Road. However, parking will not be available this year along Wade Avenue and Edwards Mill Road as in years past.

Parking on Saturday will be tight because of an N.C. State football game.

Remote parking lots with shuttle service will be well-advertised along the major roads around the fairgrounds.

The carnival rides at the fair are operated by Strates' Shows. The company uses a 61-car train to move the show's equipment across the East Coast. A crew can unload the colorful train in under 18 hours.

The 10 sleeping cars are home to more than 100 carnival employees. Strates' is the only remaining railroad carnival still traveling in the United States today.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
John Cox, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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