NC State Fair staple looks to hang his hat after 40 years

Local News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Tucked away between a couple of rides and a food stand at the N.C. State Fair is Circle C Racing Pigs. While some fair exhibitors like to change things up, Dennis Cook has kept his show the same for decades.

“I’m just old school all the way and just about the same thing. I don’t practice what I’m gonna say. I just get out there have a good time with the crowd and let her rip,” Cook said.

Bleachers surround an oval-shaped race track.

Cook stands right in the center working up the crowd, calling on children to cheer on each racer.

His wife lines up each racer – Squealin’ Earnhart, Rudder Martin, Piggy Gordon – at the start line. The next race heat features goats followed by a duck race.

Cook said there’s a feeling he gets from the crowd that he can’t describe. It just feels good. It’s part of the reason he’s been racing his pigs for 40 years at the N.C. State Fair. At this point, he’s one of the longest running exhibitors at the fair and an absolute staple.

“I look at the crowd and there’s a lot of people sitting up there and if I can put a smile on their face for 10, 15, 20 minutes, get them away from the world’s problems, I’ve done my job,” Cook said.

“I said a few years back when I got to 70 years old, I was going to walk away but I’d like to stay out here a couple more years,” said Cook.

Once he hangs up the mic, it’s time to play with his grandchildren.

“It don’t get better than your family. That’s all you got is your family,” Cook said.

It was believed for some time that Cook’s son might inherit the tradition but he’s now caring for three of his own children. Cook understands how difficult it can be to leave your family during the fair season.

“That’ll be the end of this old boy,” Cook said. “When I hang it up, this old boy is just going to enjoy life.”

While he’s aiming for retirement within the five-year range, others familiar with him at the fair have said he “keeps changing the goalpost.” So will he or won’t he in the next five years? It’ll depend on his health, he said.

“I hope I’m here for a few more years but I hate to walk away. It’s been good to me. The people have been good,” said Cook.

Cook said this adventure has been worth every second.

“You got to turn that TV off, come out here and enjoy yourself,” said Cook.

Circle C Racing Pigs runs four times a day at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 7pm, and 9 p.m. You can see the pigs, ducks and goats race each day of the fair.

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