Have a blue-ribbon day at the North Carolina State Fair

First hosted in 1853, the 11-day gathering is the state’s biggest event, featuring carnival rides, colorful games, indulgent foods, and more
North Carolina State Fair

Photography by Justin Kase Conder

Most state fairs began as livestock exhibitions, featuring demonstrations of farming practices and introducing new agricultural products. Through the years, carnival rides, colorful games, and indulgent foods joined the mix and became a staple of Americana. You’ll find all of these attractions and more at the North Carolina State Fair, held October 12–22 in Raleigh. First hosted in 1853, the 11-day gathering is the state’s biggest event. See demonstrations of blacksmithing, woodcarving, basket-weaving, and pottery-making at the Village of Yesteryear. Squeeze in a cow-milking lesson at the dairy classroom; cheer at the miniature horse pulls and pig races; and gawk at the creatures in the reptile and exotic animal show. Visitors may peruse thousands of contest entries—from pound cakes to Christmas trees—and admire the blue-ribbon winners in each category. Horticulture fans come to walk through multiple themed gardens (roses, bonsai, mums, and more) and see scarecrow displays. The fair’s Homegrown Music Fest features live music by local and regional performers, and the Folk Festival invites clogging and square-dancing teams to compete. And what’s a fair without outlandish fare? Tempt—or taunt—your tastebuds with deep-fried Jell-O, frozen banana pudding tacos, dill pickle pizza, rattlesnake corndogs, or even a Krispy Kreme cheeseburger.

This article appears in the Fall 2023 issue of Southbound