RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – This year’s North Carolina State Fair has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler announced Wednesday morning.
The State Fair, which was scheduled to run from Oct. 15-25, is one of the most highly-anticipated events in the state every year – but COVID-19 ended up shutting it down. North Carolina has seen more than 116,000 cases and over 1,800 people have died from the virus.
Around 1 million people regularly attend the State Fair.
The Mountain State Fair held just outside Asheville and the Carolina Classic Fair in Winston-Salem had already been canceled due to COVID-19.
The Mountain State Fair was scheduled for Sept. 11-20 and was canceled earlier this month. The Carolina Classic Fair was set to run from Oct. 2-11. It was canceled on Tuesday.
Troxler made the announcement on the State Fair at a news conference.
“I can think of a thousand places I’d rather be today than here delivering this news,” said Troxler. “The State Fair is a tradition we all look forward to each year. It’s a vital economic engine for local non-profits, community groups, small businesses and individuals. It’s a time for family and friends to come together to celebrate everything that makes North Carolina such a great place to live. We waited as long as we could, hoping the numbers would take a turn and we’d be able to continue with our planning, but each day brought more challenges than solutions.”
The State Fair said a survey of 1,130 past online ticket purchasers showed 65 percent of those surveyed said they would be hesitant to attend the Fair while 33 percent said they would not attend at all.
Troxler said the State Fair has had 186 events at the State Fairground canceled this year due to the pandemic. The cancellations has resulted in $2.3 million in lost revenue.
The commissioner said weeks ago that officials have talks “daily” about the status of the State Fair. He said that organizers have to be realistic not only about the health risks involved but also the financial risks.
Troxler said previously that the idea of social distancing at the Fair is “unrealistic.” He confirmed in June that if the fair were to go on, it would not be a scaled-back version.
“We can’t put on a half State Fair. We couldn’t do it financially,” he said in June.
The Fair costs $6.8 million to put on and man contracts in place have a 60-day stipulation for cancellation with no penalty.
“We looked at so many different factors,” said fair manager Kent Yelverton. “From social distancing, face masks, temperature checks and capacity limits to the true minutia most wouldn’t think about until you are in the moment like social distancing on our shuttle buses, cleaning carnival equipment between riders, overlapping food lines and stringent cleaning schedules. To offer anything less than what fairgoers have come to know and love would be a disservice to our community and to us. There is no halfway when producing a fair. The people, the lights, the rides, the smells, the music…all of that contributes to an atmosphere that can only be felt during a fair.”
The last time the North Carolina State Fair was canceled was 1942-45 due to World War II.
N.C. State Fair attendance
- 2019: 938,029
- 2018: 977,256
- 2017: 1,014,478
- 2016: 1,028.364
- 2015: 1,019,732
- Five-year average: 995,572