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Fair Organizers Get Ready; Food Stands, Rides Inspected

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RALEIGH — The 132ndNorth Carolina State Fairopens Friday and will be open for a 10-day run in Raleigh. Fair organizers spent Thursday taking care of the final details.

Safety and health officials spent the daychecking the foodpreparation areas as well as thesafety of the rides.

The Highway Patrol gave some pointers for navigating through thefair traffic, and the newwaterfallwas dedicated at the fairgrounds.

Wake County Health Departmentinspectors spent Thursday making sure what fairgoers buy to eat is safe.

For many people, the State Fair means food, and safety is paramount. With more than 150 vendors, inspectors have their work cut out.

"I would say that food handling and temperature control are two of the biggest things we look at," said inspector Richard Wagner.

Inspectors work in teams checking everything from hot water to cleanliness.

Inspector Angela Poland uses a meat thermometer to check cooking temperatures of meat. Stored food must be kept cold.

They do not call themselves food police, but inspectors do check carefully most everything behind vendors' counters for your safety.

The State Fair has more rides than ever this year, 78 in all, including four new ones. Each one of the rides is inspected for safety.

Department of Laborinspectors give each ride a hard look searching for anything that might malfunction.

Once a ride is set up, inspectors take a close look at it, and the checks are thorough. The ride is then turned on for a good look at how it runs.

Strates Showshas a good safety record, but aminor accident last year injured three people. Electrical connections and all mechanical parts are also checked on each ride. Even after final approval is given, inspectors check the rides every day to insure they are safe.

Games are also checked to make sure players do not get ripped off. Wake County officers play the games to make sure they are fair -- skill versus chance.

Games are numbered so players can report complaints to officers who will be on the midway during the fair.

Lots of people love the State Fair's rides, games and food, but the traffic is another story. No matter which way you go, expect long delays and tie-ups starting Friday.

The morning rush at Blue Ridge Road and Hillsborough Street without the State Fair is bad enough. Many people know the frustration of the traffic mess from last year's fair. No corn dog or funnel cake can ease the pain of the clogged arteries from fair gridlock.

If the advance ticket sale line is an indicator, this year's traffic jams could set a record. Veteran fair traffic fighters think they have the answer.

"Come up I-40 and get off on exit 290. Then, I just come up Corporation Center Drive to Trinity, I'm right here," said fairgoer Pam Yates Thornton.

The word from theState Highway Patrolis simple. Avoid Blue Ridge Road and Hillsborough Street at all costs. People should use the new Edwards Mill interchange off Wade Avenue whenever possible.

There are a few changes this year, and Wade Avenue is at the top of that list. State Troopers used to allow parking on the shoulder and on the median but not this year.

"There will be no parking on Wade Avenue," said Lt. R.L. Hayes of the Highway Patrol.

The State Highway Patrol says the new design on Wade Avenue makes it too dangerous. Anyone who tries to park along Wade Avenue will get a ticket.

The traffic Saturday will be even worse becauseN.C. StateplaysVirginiaat Carter-Finley Stadium. The combination ofACCfootball and the fair is expected to draw 250,000 people to the fairgrounds area.

"I hope everything will work out fine. Just leave early, be patient and listen to the officers," said Hayes.

Oddly enough, you'll have fewer mass transit options this year.Capital Area Transitcanceled the shuttle bus service from Cary Towne Center, and Durham Transit has cut back service to the fairgrounds.

On Saturday, shuttle buses will run from the McKimmon Center to the fair from 9 a.m. until midnight.

Thenew, 40-foot waterfallwas dedicated Thursday at the fairgrounds. It was dedicated to Helen Kirk Graham, the wife ofAgriculture Commissioner Jim Graham.

The Cary Academy Chorus sang at Thursday's dedication.

There was a waterfall built on the fairground back in the 1930s, but it disappeared in the late 1960s.