Fair mascot Casey Cardinal is back and he’s got lots of tips for fairgoers. Read below to find a few unique N.C. State Fair traditions that makes the fair live up to Nothing Could Be Finer.
It’s true, just about every state has a state fair. And these fairs have rides and foods and a midway. But that’s not all that’s at a State Fair. The buildings are full of vendors, state agencies and other organizational booths. The exhibit halls are full of ribbon winners and the livestock barns are bustling with livestock shows. On the grounds you’ll find stilt walkers, jugglers, and maybe even a friendly dragon or a unicorn. The fair is a magical place. Read below for what makes the N.C. State Fair unique and should be on any fairgoer’s annual traditions fair list.
- Wake up with the fair. First thing in the morning is a great time to be on the grounds. Local church booths on restaurant row and other fair vendors are selling full breakfasts, and what they don’t have, other vendors can fill in, including ham biscuits, mini donuts, pastries and more. Arriving at the fair when the gates open at 8 a.m. means you usually get a good parking spot and get to watch the fair come to life for the day. Livestock and horse shows get an early start, so you can check those out. Otherwise, the buildings don’t open until 9 a.m. and the rides start at 10 a.m.
- Visit Big Smokey Bear. He is one-of-a-kind. Big Smokey Bear has lived on the fairgrounds since the 80s. And, with the exception of a few years when he was down for repairs, generations of fairgoers have been visiting him at the fair. You can find Smokey in the forestry exhibit near Gate 8.
Meet someone at the Waterfall. The waterfall is located on the north lawn of Dorton Arena. This area has been a meeting spot for friends and families since debuting at the 2000 N.C. State Fair. Older fairgoers might remember this isn’t the first fair waterfall. In the 1950s and 60s, the fair Waterfall was also a popular spot to meet up with friends and family.
- Ride the State Fair Flyer. The State Fair flyer might be brand new. But this is the perfect time to make it a must-do fair tradition. It’s the fair’s first permanent ride and gives fairgoers a “bird’s-eye” view of the food, rides and games on the grounds.
- Come meet me, Casey! This year, you can visit me at Casey’s Clubhouse at scheduled times. Check the daily program for more information. Casey Cardinal was first introduced in 1968. After a few year’s of being the fair’s mascot, he fell from popularity. But now, the 6-foot-plus tall, red, friendly bird is back and posing for pictures and giving high fives with young and old.
- Visit the grist mill, tobacco barn, Tobacco Pavilion, blacksmith shop and old school house in Heritage Circle. This area may be far removed from the hustle and bustle of the midway, but its a great place to explore a little of North Carolina’s heritage – and listen to some great bluegrass bands.
- Visit Dorton Arena. Driving up to the fairgrounds this is the first building you notice. The giant “potato chip” looking area was built in the 1950’s and is the world’s first use of a cable-supported roof. It’s a Civil Engineering Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. We are proud of our iconic building and the spot its play as a symbol of the fair.
- Stay for the fireworks – if you woke up with the fair, these may come a little late for you. At 9:45 p.m. nightly the west Raleigh sky lights up with a dazzling display of lights. This year, we have also added a laser light show over the lake at Gate 8. So if you need to leave a little earlier and skip the fireworks – check out the laser light display over the lake starting at 7:30.
What’s your favorite North Carolina State Fair tradition?