Back to the NC State Fair

Back to the NC State Fair

The North Carolina State Fair is not only one of the best fairs in the country, it’s also synonymous with my childhood. I have crisp memories of my Dad carrying me on his shoulders around the potted mums and Village of Yesteryear in-between riding the swings and winning giant stuffed animals.

Since moving from NC, I’ve sampled fairs in New England and Texas but nothing compares to the original for me. When I was planning a trip back home this fall, I knew a fair trip was in order.

I really think the magic of the fair is built on years of memories of friends, food and farm animals… but I did my best to document the amazingness this year for you.

Though I did get pictures of cute donkeys…


and questionable balloon art…


my favorite part of the fair these days are the competitions. Everything at the state fair is a competition, and there’s satin as far as the eye can see.

The largest pumpkin is always a crowd pleaser. This year it was an all time record at over 1,000 pounds.


They also give out other pumpkin awards for… pumpkinness? I’m not sure, but it is an attractive pumpkin.


There are lots of big melons to be seen.


As well as teeny, tiny produce (my favorite).


Simon’s favorite category had an impressive showing this year.


But that wasn’t as visually appealing as the North Carolina produce displays, which were also awarded ribbons because duh…. everyone loves ribbons.


Honey for your sweet tooth, which makes an excellent all natural cotton candy as I discovered this year.


Animals are a huge part of the fair. Some are just hanging out and on display for city slickers to get up close and personal with farm life.



There’s also serious livestock competition with big money behind it. I love the fluffy show cows, which have stall setups not unlike our hunter/jumper shows.



And if this isn’t the prettiest hog you ever did see, well I don’t know what to tell you.


Outside of agriculture, the fair still offers many competitions for those who don’t exactly live on a farm. It can be as modern as Legos…


or as obscure as an egg decorating contest. Really – they have an egg decorating contest with multiple divisions.


Knitting, quilting, crochet and sewing are all popular events.


As well as canning –


and a new one to me, table settings?


The finale of the arts & crafts section of the fair is undoubtedly the cake decorating contest. Of all the things, this has grown the most since I visited seven years ago. There was quite the line to wait and see the cakes!


If I ever do move back to North Carolina, I plan on seeing how many ribbons I can win at the fair one year. I figure between horses, photography, art and being somewhat crafty I have a fair shot of going across the board. Until then, these pictures will have to suffice!

What would your best fair event be?

31 thoughts on “Back to the NC State Fair

  1. The NC State Fair! Have they still got the photography contest? I missed it last year!

    Gotta love those fair nights, and you didn’t even get to the food! We’re going this weekend (eep) and I’ve got the heartburn meds ready and waiting! 🙂

    1. I was laughing about that too! Don’t enter the tiny food contest, who would want such a small ribbon? lol

      The egg folks had some decent ribbons…

      We always entered things in the fair in Elementary school – handwriting, drawings, etc. I wonder where my ribbons went? Probably in my Mom’s basement or something! lol

  2. Oh I’m totally addicted to competing in the county fairs- I entered photography in 3 county fairs as well as the state fair this year! It feeds my satin addiction and to me is like Christmas- you can’t wait for the fair to open to see how your entries did!

    One thing I’ve never done is enter the baking competition. I think next year I’m going to try my hand at baking cookies.

      1. You should! It was a HUGE thrill for me to win a ribbon at the State Fair. I wanted to jump up and down and squeal like a little kid 🙂

        You should see the quilting competition at the Maryland State Fair… the craftsmanship is incredible. I cannot fathom how many hours it takes some of those folks to complete their quilts. Especially those that hand quilt!

  3. I love fairs! I totally geek out and revert to an 8-year-old girl squealing over the animals. I want to touch them all.

    My best fair event would be an ice cream eating contest, if they had one!

  4. Love Love the NC State Fair! I always horse showed as a child during the state fair at the horse complex. We would show at the Youth Show and then walk over to the fair in the evenings. Now they have a Open Show for us adults to ride in now. Which is nice since I can’t afford the Double AA State Fair Hunter show,

  5. I love the Tulsa State Fair, even if it doesn’t have as much ridiculous food as I feel like it should. I love seeing the animals! Maybe next year I’ll end the contest- if they have a division for tiniest zucchini grown, I would definitely win.

  6. The only state fair I’ve ever been to is Kentucky (in Louisville). I went a few times as a kid and as an adult. It was good but didn’t really inspire me – it looks way less awesome than those fairs in that article you posted! I’d love to go see one of the Top Ten fairs to see what I’m missing out on 😀

  7. OMgerd. Tiny pepper with tiny ribbons. And that donk. And those cakes. This is amazing. I’ve been to the WV State Fair (mainly for concerts to be honest) but this looks so much nicer! Road trip!

  8. I meant to enter the photography competition at the state fair of texas this year and totally absolutely forgot. I was encouraged to do so last year when my parents looked at the pictures and helpfully said “Well, your pictures are as good as these.”

    I love the state fair though, there’s nothing quite like it.

  9. I dunno Fair satin just doesn’t do it for me, and I’ve won my share of Fair satin (in things other than ponies). Except the Amador Fair, the Amador Fair Horse Show satin just cannot be eclipsed.

  10. The fair in PA was the big thing for farmers to enter all their canning, produce, and hay. We’re friends with one family that would enter the same shit from their garden/fields as separate entries for each family member. Think a flake of hay from the same bale for each person. There’s a little bit of money that comes with each ribbon, so they always came away with something to make the time they put into hauling all that down there, but it was pretty funny. Farmers love ribbons too!

  11. Years ago, I spent months making various crafts and growing plants to enter. The day before entries were to be brought in, I decided to make peanut brittle, too. It was a totally spur of the moment thing. After everything was judged, I went through to see if I’d won anything. Several of my crafts won, some others got various color ribbons. However, I couldn’t find my peanut brittle where it had been placed originally. I looked for it for a while, and finally asked one of the officials about it. He pointed me to a table where ‘best of show’ items were displayed. I still chuckle that the items I worked on for half the year did OK, while something I decided to make and throw in at the last minute won a highest award. 😀

  12. I love the fair. I used to be in 4-H and spend time every year at the county fair. I also did some adult fair competition in the arts and baking. I can call my chocolate chip cookies award winning and not be lying.

  13. Having recently discovered the awesomeness of state fairs, I love all these pics! Teeny tiny veggies? TOO CUTE! Also, when are we going to the Texas fair, huh huh huh?

  14. Doesn’t the Texas State fair have all those crazy deep fried options… like deep fried butter sticks. (gag) And – I think I heard of deep fried chocolate covered bacon on a stick lol…

    I like the agriculture / animal exhibits 😀

  15. I got a blue ribbon at the county fair one year for a photo of Tracy & her leased horse taken the year before. I was pretty proud because as Tracy will tell you I am a lousy photographer. It was a very fun candid. She has her own tales to tell of county & state fair adventures.

  16. Wow, no idea they had so many different divisions at a county fair, I always assumed it was just animals. How interesting.

  17. Gorgeous pictures! I can’t wait for the Royal Winter Fair in November. This post makes me want to do/make things that I could enter in a fair.

  18. OOOOOH, so jealous! I do love me a great State Fair. Of course I was spoiled by attending one of THE best in the country, Ohio’s, for about five years in a row. Though I have to say it looks like NC’s would give it a run for its money! Ohio’s is so gigantic it literally takes a couple days to get around to all the buildings.

    I am particularly intrigued by the table setting competition. Never seen that before, either. The one you took a picture of is AMAZING! However, unless they are behind glass I certainly wouldn’t be leaving Grandmother’s sterling flatware out where the ravening crowd could pocket it.

    Since I moved from OH I have only been to one state fair, Tennessee’s, which was okay but a huge let-down after the extravaganzas in OH. I’ve lived in MO for 16 years but I have yet to go. alas, as it’s just a little bit too far away. I do usually go to our county fair though and always enjoy the animals and arts and crafts. Every year I think, “I need to enter something” (baked good) and then I forget all about it!

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