From agriculture to art: N.C. State Fair celebrates 150th anniversary

Commentary by Rachel Teseneer
Times-News correspondent

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The N.C. State Fair Flyer gives fair-goers a bird's eye view of the fair. [Photo courtesy of N.C. State Fair

   RALEIGH — The 150th annual North Carolina State Fair began   Wednesday with a crowd eager to partake in fried food favorites, rides and  events celebrating anything from agriculture to art. The State Fair is a  guaranteed crowd-pleaser, sporting interests for young and old alike. But  what the fair does best is mixing the old with the new.
Beginning as an agricultural showcase, the State Fair started in 1853 as  the place for new and exciting agricultural products and inventions to be  viewed. But as the years progressed, rides and food stands were  introduced, ultimately forming it into what is known and enjoyed today.
As people’s interests come and go, the State Fair has managed to hold fast  to its agricultural roots. Animal shows, award-winning produce and  fantastic garden displays have still kept the attention of fair-goers.
At the State Fair Ark, cattle, pigs, sheep and more were featured with information plaques about each breed. Children flocked to the animals to get a closer looks while parents and grandparents read aloud. In nearby tents, produce such as tomatoes, peppers and melons were featured. Most noticeable were the large watermelon and the 750-pound pumpkin.
In the Education Building, displays of intricate table settings, needlework and quilts were set up. Also filling the building were decorated cakes, mouthwatering breads and cookies, among other sweet treats. What stuck out in every category was how the efforts of young adults, hobbyists and professionals were represented.
Creativity made up a large part of the fair. In the most obvious sense, it could be seen in paintings, drawings, photography and garden areas. Garden sets this year took on themes such as Halloween, colors and fairy gardens. Some garden plots combined horticulture, visual art and creative writing.
Less obvious is how agriculture based tables showed creativity. Produce-based tables had recipe booklets with educational information. Beside a crate of sweet potatoes were multiple booklets on unique sweet potato uses, including sweet potato cocktails.
A visit to the fair wouldn’t be complete without at least one visit to a food stand. With more than 200 food vendors, new food is being offered this year. There’s the brightly colored Cheerwine Funnel Cake, deep0fried key lime bites and fried fruit pies. For those with a taste for the gourmet, scallops, crab cakes and arepas can be had.
There are rides and educational events for children and young adults, demonstrations that appeal to all ages, and, for the first time, the Heritage Circle — a building dedicated to showcasing North Carolina wine and beer. This year’s State Fair is celebrating a special anniversary, but enjoyment for all has only grown.

Rachel Teseneer is a sophomore at North Carolina State University and a Teens & 20s writer.

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