Four or five years ago I discovered that not only could you go to the Fair the day beforehand to get tickets, but you could walk onto the grounds, look around, and get some food. I thought I had learned a well-kept secret until I bumped into a friend of mine and she casually mentioned that she and her friends had been coming to the Fair a day early for at least the last fifteen years.
Oh well, it's still a good idea!
Why come to the fair early? If you're into the rides or the midway, no real reason. If you're into food, people watching, or you like seeing how a fair comes together, there are lots of reasons.
Not everything is open; it's hit and miss. If you want something you can get many places, like sausage, a funnel cake, turkey leg, cotton candy, or corn, you're in luck. If you want something less-common like a mashed potato martini or tempura, you may want to wait until Friday.
The whole fairgrounds is buzzing! People (and cars and trucks and golf carts and folks on bicycles) wander around everywhere. The first whiff of fair food greets you as you hit the gate. Rides are still being put together, booths are still being assembled, midway prizes are being unpacked and hung up. Most booths are empty or busy with people laying in supplies or firing up grills.
The new Expo Center is huge. The front shots you've been seeing on TV and at the State Fair site don't do it justice; it goes way back. It's going to be able to hold a lot of exhibits. That whole area is much more open; where last year you would have seen booths and a couple of games at the side of the old Red Cross building there's a cleared area. If you miss the old midway, don't worry; there are still some rides and the Crazy Mouse down at the bottom of the hill at the old midway.
One thing I haven't heard mentioned about the Expo Center is the most excellent clock at the top which shows time and temperature. No more losing track of time at the midway and then frantically trying to find someone with a watch, or insisting to your kids that it couldn't possibly be ninety degrees and no they will not melt if they don't get a nut sundae immediately.
Between the midway and the new Expo Center, the booth placement is a little different. But I think it's in a good way. The old midway area has more elbow room and the new midway, being completely paved, is great to walk through.
One thing hasn't changed, though -- WRAL is still set up over near the Dorton Arena! Don't forget to come by and visit; there will be many WRAL personalities at the tent throughout the fair. Drop by and say hello.
See you tomorrow!
1 / 3