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State Fair was Sam Rand's "Baby"

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When the fair came together, it was magical to Sam Rand.
RALEIGH — The 1997 State Fair is dedicated to a man who made sure it happened, but isn't here to see it. Sam Rand died of natural causes almost two weeksago. He managed the Fairgrounds for the past 14 years. Those who knewhim best say he left some huge shoes to fill.

Sam Rand's name will always be a part of the Fair. AgricultureCommissioner Jim Graham's name is also firmly esconced. Wesley Wyatt isActing Manager. He says it feels strange watching this fair open withouthis former boss.

"Well Mr. Rand loved to see it all come together," Wyatt says. "It takes awhole year to plan for the fair and put all the pieces of the puzzletogether. And when it actually started falling into place, I think thatwas his favorite time of year."

It's also one of Jim Graham's favorite time, though for him too, this yearis different.

"So it's a degree of sadness certainly," admits Graham, "but we're glad wehad Sam Rand and we miss him. His spirit is all over this fairground."

"He did a masterful job in renovating the grounds," Wyatt explains, "andmanaging this fair. He was carrying on a tradition that we have here inRaleigh, North Carolina."

"I would say that this fair is certainly a reflection of what he wanted tohave done and a reflection of the work that he put into it," says Wyatt.

To the casual observer, the past years' work on the Fairgrounds isn't soobvious. Wesley Wyatt says Sam Rand's focus in the past year had been onthings unseen.

"The underground utility service, the storm drain sewer service, all thethings that are part of the fairground infrastructure that make the placeso much nicer, so much safer for families to come and make the wholefair run better."

The work is done, everything's in place thanks to Sam Rand and hisstaff. So we let him, once more, beckon the crowds.

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