Got To Be NC takes on a new look and feel at the 2021 N.C. State Fair

The Got To Be NC tent at the N.C. State Fair is a sought after attraction each year. From delicious food products, like Bob’s Smokin’ Southern BBQ and Zulia’s Bakery, to other locally made products, like soap from Blinking Toad Workshop, the Got To Be NC area is a fair favorite to vendors and attendees alike. This year, vendors will take on a larger space in the Dorton Arena, aka the Got To Be NC Pavilion!

Dorton Arena is the most iconic building on the N.C. State fairgrounds in Raleigh and sits proudly in the middle of all the action at the fair each year. So, what better place for the local products and pride of North Carolina to be housed! Nearly 30 vendors will be featured in the pavilion this year, including Sweet Treats of NC, King’s Pepper, Mackeys Ferry Peanuts & Gifts, Gotta Be Penelope’s and Ni Armor’s Premium Gourmet Sauces.

Vendors can choose if they would like to exhibit their products for the entire fair or if they will take shifts. According to Marketing Specialist, Sherry Barefoot, “if vendors don’t want to commit to all 10 days of the fair this year, they can either choose to work the first half, coming in on Thursday the 14th and leaving on the night of the 19th, or they can choose to work the second half, coming in on Wednesday the 20th and staying through the last day of the fair.” The Got To Be NC Pavilion will open every day at 9 a.m. and close at 9:45 p.m., with the exception of Thursday, Oct. 14, when it will open at noon.

For Penelope Morgan, owner of Gotta Be Penelope’s in Raleigh, showing off her products at the N.C. State Fair is a huge source of pride and gives her something to look forward to throughout the year. This year, she is most looking forward to meeting new customers and reconnecting with returning customers.

“I love to talk to people,” she said, “and the best part for me about being at the N.C. State Fair is seeing people’s reactions when they try my product.” Gotta Be Penelope’s offers a variety of hot pepper jellies, including mild, hot and pineapple. “We make all of our jellies with habanero pepper but it is not overly spicy like some things,” Penelope said, “in fact, the first thing you will taste with my jelly is the flavor of the fruit that is used and then you will get a little kick from the pepper on the back end.”

Penelope will release two new pepper jelly flavors at the fair this year and is looking forward to sampling those to people as they come by. She will even be hosting a contest on her Instagram and Facebook page prior to the fair where you can guess what the new flavors might be and enter for your chance to win some free hot pepper jelly. In addition to the new flavors, Penelope will have all her regular flavors available for purchase at the fair as well as live edge charcuterie boards made out of wood from a local lumber yard!

“Some of these boards are laser engraved and can be customized to fit your style and needs,” she said. Penelope can be found spicing up the Got To Be NC Pavilion Oct. 14-19. to the 19th!

Another vendor bringing her fiery side to the fair this year is Gail Jennings, owner of King’s Pepper in Durham. King’s Pepper offers a blend of herbs and fiery spices that are based on a West African recipe and can be used on everything from vegetables to local meat.

“I fell in love with the robust kick this seasoning gave to my food,” Gail said, “and it pleases a lot of people not only for the taste, but also because it has no salt, peanut or msg in the blend.”

Gail is looking forward to sharing her story with customers at the fair and feeling the support of those in the community who invest in her products. Not only will she have a variety of spice blends available at the fair this year, including original, mild and extra hot, but will also have her vegan King’s Pepper African Taco Kit for sale.

“This kit uses black eyed peas as the basis for a batter that you fry/bake into patties to fill your taco shell,” Gail said. “It’s a great choice for Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday or any day you want your family to have something healthy and delicious!” The taco kit makes 16 to 20 patties and the batter can be frozen for up to six months. Stop by and show your support for her products during the fair this year from Oct. 20-24. As Gail says, “before you grill, before you bake, buy King’s Pepper and shake, shake, shake.”

Hawaiian Dave, another Got To Be NC vendor, is especially excited to be back at the fair this year with his four delicious flavors of beef jerky! After closing his business in 2009 due to financial reasons, Dave and his wife officially opened their doors again this year and are proud to be back in the jerky making business.

“My love of beef actually came from Slim Jims,” Dave said, “I became fascinated with jerky and, after my wife bought me a dehydrator, I decided to try making some of my own.”

Today, Hawaiian Dave’s Island Treats offers four flavors of beef jerky: original teriyaki, barbeque, sweet & sour and volcano. The volcano, Dave describes, is a spicy mix that resembles a jalapeno but not as hot as a habanero. His favorite is actually the sweet and sour! “We marinate our jerky for 16 hours so that the flavor shines through the product all the way from the moment it hits your taste buds until you swallow,” he said, “that is what makes our beef jerky such a gourmet product.” You can find all four flavors of jerky at the fair this year and possibly even a few new products! Dave and his wife are most looking forward to building up clientele again and getting their product out there.

“We are honored to be a Got To Be NC member and to be able to showcase our products in such a high-profile setting,” he said. Hawaiian Dave will be at the fair all 10 days this year, so be sure to stop by, sample his products and decide which is your new favorite!

Whether you are looking for a delicious food product, new ingredient to try in the kitchen or a specialty item to treat yourself, the Got To Be NC pavilion is a must stop on your N.C. State Fair schedule this year! Remember some of the vendors will change out mid-fair so if you find yourself at the fair more than once, be sure to stop in and check out the new vendors. No matter what you are looking for, Nothing Could Be Finer than Got To Be NC products!

About Rollercoaster

"Life is short, so do the things you love with the people you love." Rollercoaster is the fair-themed nickname for Taylor Parrish, an information and communications specialist in the Public Affairs Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. An alumni of N.C. State University and former Marketing and Sales Assistant with Scott Farms, a sixth-generation family farm out of Lucama, NC, she is no stranger to the world of agriculture. Football and singing are her biggest passions. While at the fair, her "must do" items are a pineapple smoothie from Tropical Delight and a ride on the Fireball.

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