WRAL.com at the State Fair

Cool temps and drinks dominate on Day 1

Posted October 15, 2011 10:42 a.m. EDT

What a terrific first full day of the 2011 North Carolina State Fair!

Though it started off chilly, a perfect mix of sun and clouds made it a great day to get out and walk around. It looks like the weekend is going to be equally gorgeous. It was breezy, though -- I can't remember a time it was so windy in October! The wind made it feel more like March. The breeze kept the leaves on the oaks rustling constantly, reminding me of how many beautiful trees there are on the fairgrounds. The pennants on the midway booths snapped so sharpy that sometimes they sounded like firecrackers going off.

Speaking of booths, if you're the type who likes to get a drink early in your Fair visit and keep it refilled all day, keep an eye out for
"$1 drink refill" signs -- I saw them everywhere. At least one was for any size cup and any drink. Some vendors also have their own drink refill specials but don't have signs for them. Just ask.

I don't know if it was the drink refill specials or what, but it was nice to see some school mascots that looked happy on the midway this year. Though the depressed UNC Rams are still in evidence, there are also many cheery NCSU wolves and a least of couple of Duke Blue Devils with big grins.

Most of the mascot prizes I saw were on the "new" midway, between the grandstand and gate 9. There were a few down on the "old" midway (behind the Expo Center and between gates 5 and 4), but it's still not clear how that area is going to be used. Unlike almost every other part of the Fair, there's not a clear way for people to flow, especially in the back corner. On the other hand, the area behind Dorton Arena (between Dorton and Hillsborough Street) is now devoted almost exclusively to large equipment vendors and some exhibits (instead of a mix of those, rides, and games) and is now much easier to navigate.

As you go around Dorton, walk down the lane between Dorton Arena and the Jim Graham Building, and come up to the waterfall, you will notice that Harlequin is not at that corner of the Dorton Arena lawn area, giving out free books as they were last year. That space is now taken by a Kerr Drugs "general store" selling all kinds of necessities that you might find yourself in need of, but which didn't make it into your pocket or purse. So if you need aspirin or cold medicine or something like that, you can try there or one of the booths across from the Expo Building (the name of that booth slips my mind at the moment!)

Oddest midway prize I've seen so far this year: Ziggy. Yeah, Ziggy the cartoon character. He certainly stood out among all the Stewie, Angry Birds, Green Lantern, and other contemporary stuffed prizes! At the same booth: Charlie the Tuna, the mascot tuna for StarKist, who celebrates his 50th anniversary this year.

Be sure to take a look at the art contest entries in the Kerr Scott building. The walls holding the entries, which were white, have been painted black. That makes the aisles a little darker but the pictures really pop and look great.