The History of the Fair

Every October, North Carolinians get to enjoy the most anticipated state event of the year: the State Fair. Filled with delicious, odd foods, enjoyable attractions, and fun games where you can win prizes. But one of the least admired things about the fair is its rich history, dating back over a century ago. The fair was overlooked a century ago, but now it is one of the most popular events in North Carolina, dragging in almost 1,000,000 people and making over 1.5 million dollars. How did something so insignificant rise to be such a popular event?

The fair all began in 1853, created by the North Carolina State Agricultural Society. But this fair wasn’t the fair with the modern lights and exotic foods that we know of today. This fair was more of an exhibition to teach North Carolina farmers about agriculture and better ways to grow their crops. Not many people attended, but it still had enough of an impact for the Society to continue hosting it. People would bring in equipment, crops, and hand-made goods, hoping to win prizes for their possessions. The fair was canceled in the 1860s due to the Civil War. The fairgrounds became a medical field where they would take wounded soldiers when they were injured. Once ended, the fair started up again with the goal to educate farmers. The fair was moved to larger grounds in 1873. They began to install permanent buildings for the fair, such as stalls for horses, pens for sheep, and even a three story grandstand.


Between 1875 and 1925, the Modern Midway was implemented, introducing shows, attractions, rides, games, and food. They had motorcyclists, human cannonballs, and horse races. The fair closed in 1925 due to the bankruptcy of the Agricultural Society. It reopened three years later under the Department of Agriculture. The modern fair that we know today was formed by Dr. J. Sibley Dorton, the first manager. He provided the facilities that were needed to expand the fair.

Today, the fair is filled with many wonderful things. There are car shows, livestock, flowers, and a section for the original fair showcasing the original equipment. The most popular part of the fair today is the rides, games, and food. The fair holds many exquisite foods, including funnel cake, deep-fried Oreos and Snickers, and the Krispy Kreme Burger. The fair even includes The Skyline, which was a permanent installation in 2016. It takes you high above the fair and gives you a bird’s eye view. Whether you go for the food, the rides, or the history, the North Carolina State Fair is the place for you to be.

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