Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair begins this week
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on September 27, 2009 2:00 AM
Willie Outlaw, who has been helping with the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair for more than a decade, looks over the livestock arena at the fairgrounds Friday after getting it ready for the start of the fair this week.
Every fall for the last 25 years, Milton Ingram has watched the Wayne County Fairgrounds come to life.
He has witnessed the consumption of thousands of hot dogs and country ham biscuits, seen dozens of goats and their handlers awarded coveted blue ribbons, heard car after car smash into another at demolition derbies and stood by while tears fell from the eyes of each October's newly crowned queen.
And this year's edition of the Wayne County Regional Agricultural Fair will be no different, the longtime fair manager said Friday.
By Monday, the transformation of the vast lawn at the fairgrounds into Power's Great American Midway will be in progress.
Concession stands will be stocked, information signs hung and a few days later, livestock will begin stints in their allotted stalls.
The 2009 edition of the county fair begins Thursday, marking the end of a year of tireless work to make it "the best possible experience for families."
"We work on it year-round," Ingram said. "When last year's fair was in place is when we started looking at possible changes, that kind of thing."
The process continued throughout the winter when, in January, members of Ingram's staff attended the North Carolina/South Carolina Fair Convention.
"That's when we start booking our entertainment," Ingram said. "That's an educational convention where all the fairs ... exchange ideas."
This year's lineup is similar to past fairs with a few exceptions -- several new acts and seven additional rides have been added and there will be "an event like an Easter Egg Hunt" for children that involves $500 in quarters spread across one of the fairgrounds' lawns.
And for Ingram, the program might just be the best he has seen.
"We've had more interest this year, it seems like. We've had more calls about contests and entering," he said. "And with the new entertainment we've got, I really feel like we're going to have probably the biggest attendance we've ever had, weather permitting. ... I think we probably have one of the best fairs we've ever had."
Another factor he believes will bolster attendance this year is the state of the economy.
"This is the biggest bargain people are going find ... with the economy like it is right now. We'll charge $6 for an adult and $3 for children, and then they can walk down here to the center of the Midway and put a $20 armband on and ride 48 rides as many times as they want to," Ingram said. "When they go to the State Fair, they will buy a book of tickets and every ticket is worth $1. Most of the rides are four or five tickets. So if you ride four rides at the State Fair, that's about $20. You take $20 here and ride 48 rides as many times as your stomach will allow."
But the rides are only part of the bargain, he added.
There is no charge to view livestock and exhibits, watch live music, participate in the interactive shows or to take in daily competitions.
"There's really nothing like it around," Ingram said.
And the fair experience offers a safe outing for families, too.
To ensure that is the case, each ride is meticulously inspected.
"The rides in North Carolina are the safest of any state in the nation. We have the best rider safety inspections," Ingram said. "Every ride out there will have been inspected and they will have a seal on there saying we're allowed to operate it. Out here, there is no such thing as an unsafe ride."
And officials are taking precautions -- providing hand-washing stations across the grounds -- to guard those who come out from the flu.
So in Ingram's mind, there is only one thing that could put a damper on attendance numbers -- projected to top 100,000 -- at the fairgrounds for the next two weeks: Rain.
Something he knows no amount of planning can control.
"For the last few years, we've had some terrible weather," he said. "I guess this year it's just going to be up to the man upstairs."