RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – If the savory food doesn’t first catch your attention at the North Carolina State Fair, the sparkling lights, flashy games and even a few shrills might do the trick.

Families who came out to the fairgrounds Friday said there’s a reason why more than 800,000 people head that way every fall season.

“I come out here just to eat to be honest, that’s all I come out here for,” said Breshay McKoy from Fuquay-Varina.

McKoy and her family were one of many who spent the afternoon exploring the 334 acres of fun.

“I like the goats—they’re so cute!” said Linda Blakely who also headed to the fair with her seven-year-old grandson, Graeme.

Blakely said the fair is always a good time but it’s never a bad idea to have a plan.

Blakely added, “Just plan ahead, have a good plan about where you’re going to park, what rides you want to go on and make sure you load your card with enough money for rides.”

Among the crowd was also 72-year-old Carl Tart. The NCDA&CS retiree said he has come back for almost 20 years to educate families about NC’s agriculture. Tart is just one of the faces behind the exhibit called “Field of Dreams.”

“I come here to see the people,” said Tart. “I tell the staff who works this exhibit, the key is not how good the crops look, we want them to look good don’t get me wrong, but the key is your interaction with these kids and families.”

Tart said they have several groups and even high school students who help educate families about harvesting and the many vegetables and crops that are vital for NC’s economy. He said they typically see around 180,000 people walk through the exhibit each fair.

“Our first intent was for children, but we’re finding out we’re educating adults, as well,” said Tart. “It’s amazing the number of people who have never seen cotton, soybeans, potatoes, that type of thing. That’s why we’re here.”



Tart said they spend about two weeks setting up the display outside the J.S. Dorton Arena but begin growing crops several months out. Learning about the process from the farm to the table is something Tart believes is important. He said, “We’re just trying to teach the concept of how the food process flows.”

Agriculture continues to be a large part of the NC State Fair, especially when it first started in 1853. Back in 1960, admission for adults was only $.75, a lot has changed! The fair has not only grown larger and more popular but has also extended over time to an 11-day celebration.

Families can find a pamphlet with a list of events for each day when they walk through gate entrances. The NC State Fair runs through Sunday, Oct. 22.