Branford Marsalis to make State Fair debut Oct. 21

A Grammy-winning saxophonist and composer will make his long-awaited debut at the North Carolina State Fair this year, as the Branford Marsalis quartet comes to the Homegrown Music Festival at Dorton Arena Oct. 21. Marsalis, who lives in Durham, has been a mainstay in the Jazz world for decades. The Branford Marsalis Quintet, formed in 1986, has earned five Grammy nominations over the years, with a win in 2000 for best jazz instrumental album, individual or group. That nearly three-decade span has seen the group release 16 albums of both original music and classic jazz tunes, including a 2004 concert…

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A dream come true: Dole Whip named best new fair food

It took Reggie Burnette and his brother Charles almost 20 years to become a food vendor at the N.C. State Fair. They started Tropical Delights in 1995, and now their smoothie stand is home to the 2019 “Media’s Choice Best New Food.” Members of the news and lifestyle media sampled several of this year’s new fair foods and chose the Dole Whip that Tropical Delights will be serving this year. For Burnette, being the top vote-getter was validation that brought tears to his eyes. He and his brother were born and raised in Durham and started out by setting up…

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Stilt walkers will bring unexpected fun, including a high-five

One of the new attractions at this year’s N.C. State Fair may not be something you put on your to-do list at the fair, but it could certainly bring you a few surprise moments of enjoyment. “We like to call it walking visual art,” said Star Child, one of the stilt walkers you’ll see when Stilt Circus makes its first appearance at the fair this year. She and Richard Dalton will be roaming the fairgrounds in some spectacular costumes, so running in to them will likely be an unexpected but welcomed encounter. Of course, you’ll have to look up to…

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Scholarship Highlight: Mason Blinson–Seeker of Opportunity

Nothing is worse than missing an opportunity that could have changed your life. Below is a profile of Mason Blinson, a N.C. State Fair Youth Scholarship recipient that has shown sheep, pigs and cattle at the N.C. State Fair for many years. Mason is the daughter of Beth and Bryan Blinson of Buies Creek, NC. No one can accuse Mason Blinson of turning down a good opportunity, and because of her willingness to try new things, visit new places, and utilize the talents she’s been given, Mason has been able to experience some pretty awesome things. Mason is a senior…

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Wilmington-native Charlie Daniels returns to Dorton Arena as Devil Went Down to Georgia celebrates 40 years.

If you ask Charlie Daniels, he will tell you that going on stage in his home state is always special. The Wilmington native and graduate of the former Goldston High School in Chatham County has played during the Fair in Dorton Arena five times since 1988. His memories of the fair go back a lot farther. “My earliest memories of the N.C. State Fair was coming with my FFA group,” Daniels said. “I remember when we visited the new building, which at the time was Dorton Arena (built in 1952). We would have a good time walking around and seeing…

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State Fair offers up a lot for families to do – tips to plan your trip

From many kids’ point of view, the State Fair might just represent the absolute best place on Earth. It’s bright, bold and colorful; there’s music and crazy foods you won’t see anywhere else; the grounds teem with free entertainment that makes you laugh, inspires you to dream and sometimes just begs you to suspend disbelief; and then there are the games and rides. Even as a self-proclaimed “big kid,” I still find it to be a magical, energizing place. If you are bringing the family, here are a few/10 tips to consider to maximize the fun. Tips 1-4 are for…

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Craft soda expands options for kids and adults at the Our State Public House

For the third year, people at the N.C. State Fair will be able to taste samples of beer, wine and cider from the Old North State. New this year, craft soda will also be available, which means children and anyone else under age 21 will now be allowed in the picnic or “beer garden” area around the Our State Public House. The Public House is still relatively new. Our State magazine has sponsored it since its first year in 2017. It’s located in Heritage Circle, not far from the tobacco pavilion, the grist mill or the flower and garden show….

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Tribute to musical icon will launch Dorton Arena concerts this year

Gabriel Bello promises big things when he performs in Dorton Arena on the opening night of the N.C. State Fair this year. “We’ll be playing some of the best music that’s been put out in the last 50 to 100 years,” Bello recently told me. “Hopefully one of best bands people have ever heard.” Bello leads a Stevie Wonder tribute band (complete with backup singers and instrumentalists) called Natural Wonder. He obviously thinks highly of the legendary artist he emulates. However, he didn’t always think he’d be going on tour and entertaining people who love the music of Stevie Wonder….

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NC products showcased for fairgoers

If you’re looking for a showcase of some of North Carolina’s very own products at the N.C. State Fair, you have to check out the “Got To Be NC” exhibit tent. This year’s tent will be packed with 34 vendors from 24 cities or towns across the state. Six of the vendors are new this year, while at least five returning vendors promise to have new or updated products in their booths. Many vendors will be in the exhibit tent for either the first or second half of the fair, but eight vendors will be there all 11 days. You’ll…

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Piedmont Laureate David Menconi brings decades of music knowledge to State Fair

David Menconi, 2019 Piedmont Laureate, knows a little about what makes a good show. As a reporter and music critic with the Raleigh News and Observer for 28 years, Menconi chronicled North Carolina music from the local to the national, highlighting everything from the biggest acts to visit the state to the up-and-coming talent grown at home. This year, guests at the N.C. State Fair will get to share in a bit of Menconi’s love for music, as he and Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green will curate and emcee the Laureate Stage in coordination with Deep South Entertainment. Green is…

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