As the year comes to a close, so does my time with the N.C. Department of Agriculture. I still have winter break to look forward to, but holiday treats just can’t compare to the seeing the joy of fairgoers munching on turkey legs and deep-fried pumpkin pie.
My time as an intern has been unforgettable. Over the summer, I was thrilled to spend my days interviewing ice cream shop owners, beekeeping entrepreneurs, Montagnard staff members and competition winners. In fact, my favorite part about my daily work at the department was getting to meet so many different people that all make up the faces of North Carolina agriculture. When I first started, a N.C. State extension associate warned me that in a city like Raleigh, it can be easy to forget that the farming business is full of hard-working families. My work reminded me of this every single day. Memorable moments included snapping pictures of smiling faces at the State Farmers Market on Blueberry Day, working with local high schools to create an advertising campaign for the fair and of course, meeting Gov. Roy Cooper at the Executive Mansion.
As my classes started back up again at UNC-Chapel Hill, I decided I couldn’t get enough of my incredibly supportive supervisors, Merrie Go Round and Funhouse. I made the commute and worked a few days a week in the office, continuing my work writing press releases, blog posts and finalizing the News in Education supplement, a small paper published by the News & Observer and distributed to local schools in North Carolina. In this collection of stories, I got to showcase award-winning teenagers, fair vendors who use local ingredients, firework specialists and more. I can only hope the kids who read it can see the fair as a prime example that anything is possible.
Lucky for me, my time didn’t end downtown. After spending the summer on East Edenton Street, we moved to the fairgrounds in October. I didn’t know what to expect from working at the fair, but it was more exciting than I could have imagined. There was no better feeling than grabbing the camera and rushing downstairs after getting a text from Funhouse that read, “Meet me by the big wheel.” I spent my fall break taking pictures of funnel cake and ice cream for the State Fair Instagram; completing the fair scavenger hunt with the marketing manager of the NCDA&CS office in China; encouraging kids to meet our mascot, Casey the Cardinal; covering a cosmetology competition with Disney-inspired makeup looks; and some afternoons, venturing out to grab a few caramel apples for my family in the Education Building. It was especially invigorating to know how it all works on the inside after growing up attending the fair. I left the office some nights peeking at the fireworks from my car, and couldn’t help but remember my younger self watching them in admiration while munching on a bag of cotton candy.
But to be honest, one of my favorite parts about the fair was sitting in our office in the Scott building surrounded by passionate people. I used free moments to chat with Fried Oreo about our favorite Netflix shows, or listen to Dr. Mike’s stories in the Antique Farm Machinery exhibit with Candy Apple. I learned such valuable lessons from Funhouse and Merrie Go Round that I’ll take with me when I graduate next May — about things like speech writing, social media strategy, night photography and media relationships, but most of all, teamwork. I’m sad to leave, but I feel so fortunate to have been a part of an amazing group that put on a fair with two record-breaking attendance days, even with Hurricane Michael putting a damper on the beginning. No matter where I am next year during fair time, I hope to come back and visit the press office, where I’ll always feel at home.