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Man displaying pet possum at 1973 Fair
Having fun with a pet possum at the 1973 North Carolina State Fair. Photo courtesy North Carolina Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services

North Carolina State Fair

Since 1867, the North Carolina State Fair has been a valuable marketplace where the state's agricultural heritage and new technologies have been displayed in an entertaining and culturally significant forum in the state capital of Raleigh. The first state fair began unofficially when more than 5,000 people showed up at a four-day cattle show and manufacturers' exhibit in 1853. In 1999, the fair attracted nearly 800,000 visitors over ten October days. Farmers have been using the fair to market their products since it began.

Since 1937, the James E. Strates Show and the folk festival have been regular features. The fair celebrates the state's agricultural heritage in special exhibits, such an antique farm machine exhibit, and a "back porch" exhibit which is a recreation of a 1920s farm. At the Village of Yesteryear, visitors can see demonstrations of paper cutting, soap making, glass bowing, lace making, and dozens of other colonial crafts. Of the more than 20,000 exhibits, fair goers can see livestock, fruits and vegetables, forestry, crops, 4-H and Future Farmers of America club projects, honeybees, flowers, fine arts, photography and crafts. Displays about land use and crop management help farmers and fair goers learn more about tobacco, soybeans, forages, corn, peanuts, cotton, and waste management.

Fair events include livestock competitions for cattle, swine, goats and sheep; a pig race; and a midway with a carousel, ferris wheel and 70 other rides. Other fair attractions are its rare and endangered species exhibit, a demolition derby and lumberjack demonstrations. Each night the sky bursts with fireworks and the sound of free concerts. Among the largest in the country, the fair's seventeen-day horse show draws equestrian competitors from across the country to compete in jumping, reining, barrel racing, carriage driving, and pleasure class events for $100,000 in prize money.

The popular waterfall, which was a part of the fair for 30 years, was reintroduced in 1999. Standing 37 feet high and 45 feet wide, it serves as both a fair attraction and landmark for meeting friends and groups. Musical entertainment often performs at the waterfall.

The fair is produced by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Agriculture is the state's number one industry, generating more than $46 billion in annual revenue and employing nearly 22 percent of the state's workforce.

Documentation includes a text report, newspaper clippings, photographs, a press kit catalog; fair schedules and brochures, five fair handbooks from previous years, nine slides, and five videos of fairs.

Originally submitted by: Jesse Helms, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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