WRAL.com at the State Fair

Food, folks, and furnace

Posted June 7, 2008 12:14 a.m. EDT

"I'm not sure you read the brochure correctly," my husband said as we made our way around the new midway area and up to the Holshouser building at the fairgrounds. Sweat blurred my eyes and made the tractors all around us shimmer, like a big agricultural mirage. "Is this festival called Got to Be NC or Got to Be 103?"

"An excellent question," I assured him, "and I'd be happy to answer except I think my brain has melted."

My brain was still functioning enough for me to reflect, as we went into the comparatively cool Holshouser building, that there's a reason that the North Carolina State Fair is in October.

On the other hand, to compare this event to our annual October fest would not be -- you'll pardon the pun, won't you? -- fair. For one hand, the atmosphere (and I'm not referring to the heat) is completely different.

I mean, I love the State Fair. I blog it every year. But I recognize that many parts of it are very consumerist. You go, you eat, you ride rides, you go through exhibits, you spend money, hopefully you have a good time. (There are exceptions and more educational parts to the Fair, of course, including the Village of Yesteryear.)

Got to Be NC seems much more relaxed. As we walked around, the tractor club people hung out in groups, chatting easily as people walked by. As there were many many tractors and lots of clubs, this was a lot of people. Equipment was demonstrated. (There were some amazing vehicles there, including oooold Ford trucks and this one thing that looked like a cross between a locomotive and a tractor.) It was kind of like being at a family reunion where you don't know anybody but everyone assumes they're at least your shirttail cousin.

And like a family reunion it seemed a bit unformed. (though I was there on Thursday afternoon when it was blistering hot, which may have had something to do with it.) Though the aforementioned brochure mentioned that there was bluegrass music in Heritage Circle all day, there was nothing going on when we wandered over there. (There are seats in the circle for the bluegrass music. A tent for shade would be even better.) The Food Expo was not available Thursday, instead opening on Friday. The Holshouser building had an interesting selection of older tools and farm equipment, and I didn't see that advertised anywhere. We just happened to wander over there.

There is a carnival-like aspect to the Got to Be NC festival, mostly over by the Kerr Scott building area. There are several rides, a few games, and some good food. (Stay tuned for a review of Indian Tacos.) No, it's nothing like October. But admission is free, it's a much less crowded atmosphere, and it's comparatively low key. Unfortunately it's also high temperature -- 100 today and 102 on Sunday. Will there be enough of a turnout for the Department of Agriculture to get a good handle on whether Got to Be NC should be a regular yearly event?