WRAL.com at the State Fair

Will Steve Troxler get his million?

Posted May 17, 2008 7:48 p.m. EDT

It's always weird to write about the North Carolina State Fair in May, but we got some big news this week when Steve Troxler announced that the Fair will open "for a preview" on Thursday, October 16. This is the first time in 22 years that extra days have been added to the Fair. (If I recall correctly, the last time the Fair was extended an extra Sunday was added.)

Why is this being called a "preview" day? First is that the gates won't be open until 3, with the Midway and exhibit halls opening at 4. (It looks like the Midway and exhibits will close at the usual time.) The fair will also be a bit cheaper that days, with admission being $5 for adults and $1 for children 6-12. (Regular admission is $7 for adults and $2 for kids 6-12. Adults over 65 and children under 6 will get in free as usual.)

The Fair is also offering an unlimited ride wristband FOR THURSDAY ONLY (I can see some trouble with that right there). The wristbands will cost $25 each. If you're a big ride fanatic this could be a good deal, though you'll only have 8 hours to take advantage of it.

I say "could be" because the Department of Agriculture notes in its announcement that "the N.C. Department of Labor will have inspected and certified about 85 percent of the rides for operation in time for the Oct. 16 opening." So it could be that your favorite rides are not in fact ready. If you've ever been to the Fair on Thursday, you'll note that a lot of the rides are not ready. Last year there were at least a few of them that were still in the parking lot.

Checking the Powers Great American Midways Route Schedule, I see that there are now going to be four days of transition before the Fair. But it looks like most of the dates have four days between them -- or sometimes just two -- so it shouldn't be an issue for Powers. Hopefully you will be able to take a quick walk through the Midway and see what's available before you pony up for the wristband, instead of having to buy it at the gate along with your ticket.

(By the way, if you're wondering about what Powers might have in new rides this year, check out http://www.powersmidways.com/pages/whatsnew.html . It's a ride AND a light show! )

I'm wondering when the decision was made to add an extra day to the Fair. Some sites, like Powers itself, have the date right. Other sites, like NCABANA, the Dixie Classic Fair, and even the Fair's official site from 2007 still have the Fair as starting on the 17th. At least the organization and commercial exhibitors have five months or so to work it out.

Will this preview day get Steve Troxler to his goal of one million visitors to the Fair? It'll help. The five-year average for Thursday attendance is a little less than 95,000. The draw of the unlimited ride wristbands will be countered by the fact that the gates will not open until 3pm, the fact that it's not guaranteed all the rides will be ready, and the fact that it won't be the traditional Thursday "cans for admission" food drive day.

Perhaps if a few more incentives were offered -- cheaper admissions during slower days like Monday and Tuesday, or unlimited rides after 6pm -- it would push the attendance past the magic one million mark. It'll certainly be fun watching what they try in order to get there!