North Carolinians love Krispy Kreme

October 21, 2014 By: Category: 2014 N.C. State Fair

North Carolinians pay homage to the Krispy Kreme doughnut in a variety of ways.

The winner of the N.C. Egg Art contest is a Krispy Kreme burger with all the fixings. North Carolina’s Egg Farmers sponsor the N.C. Egg Art contest, which has to have a State Fair theme. The winning artist is Jacqueline Breckling from Cary. You can find the egg art in the Hobbies and Handicraft Building.


This Lego Krispy Kreme store depiction earned a second-place ribbon for Howard Maye of Raleigh in the North Carolina travel theme category. It can be found in the Hobbies and Handicrafts Building.

Miss Debbie’s Specialty Apples created the Krispy Kreme Collection for this year’s State Fair using a variety of Krispy Kreme flavors. Miss Debbie’s is found in the Commercial Building.

And of course, you can’t forget about the Krispy Kreme burger or the Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joe.  Another new item this year is Krispy Kreme flavored ice cream by County Folks, which is near Kiddieland.

And apparently our love of donuts runs deeper than just food. These beauties were found on the midway.

Lutz’s cattle is a 79-year fair tradition

October 20, 2014 By: Category: 2014 N.C. State Fair

Wayne Lutz outside Dorton Arena in 1965. (Photo from the Hickory Daily Record, Oct. 14, 1965.)

For the past 79 years at the N.C. State Fair, Lutz dairy cattle have always shown.

And in 62 years, Wayne Lutz has never missed an N.C. State Fair. He was 9 months old when he first came to the fair. By age 3, he was showing Jersey cows. Over the years, Lutz has won countless blue ribbons and Best of Show honors. He is also one of the exhibitors who remembers the days of showing in the “cow palace,” an affectionate nickname given to Dorton Arena back when it was used for livestock shows.

“The livestock barns were metal-roof buildings open on the side,” said Lutz. “You had a short walk to Dorton from the barns to show your cows. I remember that walk, and the atmosphere of showing in such a big building.” One of his most memorable moments in Dorton Arena was in 1965 when a young Lutz won the Kenneth R. Myatt memorial award in the junior dairy show. “This award was given to the grand champion of the junior show,” said Lutz. “I was proud to win it the first year it was given.”

“Back then there was a whole barn just for the Junior Livestock show,” he said. “Each county had an area, Rowan County might have 20 stalls. Before you came to the State Fair you had to win a blue ribbon at a county fair. There was a lot of competition, so you always had to do your best.”

For Lutz, showing cows isn’t about winning ribbons, it’s about camaraderie. “Shows are where your friends are, where you have a good time,” he added. He instilled this in his three daughters — Whitney, Kelsey and Avery — who grew up showing at the fair through their 4-H groups. As a family they would travel to livestock shows at the Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem, the N.C. State Fair, even fairs in Ohio and Florida when his daughters were younger.

This past Sunday Lutz, along with three others, was inducted into the N.C. State Fair Livestock Hall of Fame. He joined a group of 145 other men and women who are strong supporters of livestock at the fair. Lutz was honored for his longtime involvement and support of shows at the fair. Many 4-H kids have grown up showing Lutz’s cattle at the fair.

Wayne and Karen Lutz with daughters, Whitney and Avery, and grandchildren Coet and Piper.

“Lutz cattle have shown at the N.C. State Fair for 79 years and will continue to show at the fair,” he said. Lutz has grandchildren who will be able to follow the family tradition. “Showing cows is about trying to have fun,” he said. “If we do good, that’s great – if not that’s OK, too. What I want to be known for is having a good time, making people laugh and having a good time.”

Dairy cattle shows start Friday in the Jim Graham Building. Check out the daily schedule for times of shows.


New-entertainment spotlight: Amanda Durnell of Down to Earth Aerials

October 18, 2014 By: Category: 2014 N.C. State Fair

Amanda Durnell of Down to Earth Aerials

Amanda Durnell  of Raleigh is someone to look up to. Way up. She is part of Down to Earth Aerials performing daily in front of Dorton Arena. Down to Earth Aerials is one of 20 free acts offered at the fair.

Durnell started learning aerial fabric and static trapeze at 32 years old at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Vermont. “I was about 40 pounds overweight and depressed,” Durnell said. “Learning this was a great outlet, mentally and physically. The brain tries to take the easy way, not the right way” She has been performing at street fairs, festivals and other celebrations for about five years. This is her first time at the N.C. State Fair.

To prepare for her show, Durnell uses rosin on her hands and sprays tuff stuff (often called sticky spray) on her feet to help her climb and swing. Her equipment includes an aerial fabric, trapeze and a suspendulum.  “This piece of equipment is patented and made especially for aerial shows like this,” Durnell said.  “This is not something that you can make at home.”

Her shows are choreographed to music and last about 15 minutes. Most of it takes place up in the air so even a large crowd of fairgoers will likely have a good view.

One of Durnell’s favorite parts of the fair so far has been meeting Vanilla Ice during his sound check. She is most looking forward to when her family from Oxford comes up later in the week to see her perform, and then walk around and eat food.

Durnell has lived in Raleigh for about 17 years. When she’s not performing at the fair she’s teaching aerial dance at Triangle Yoga in Chapel Hill or aerial dance at Legacy Ballet in Durham. She will be performing daily on the north lawn of Dorton Arena. Check the daily program for times.

Durnell with Vanilla Ice






The original Smokey Bear returns to the Fair

October 18, 2014 By: Category: 2014 N.C. State Fair

Smokey Bear has had a big year. In August the iconic spokesperson of fire prevention celebrated his 70th birthday and, at this year’s fair, we are celebrating the return of the original 25-foot, fiberglass talking Smokey.

The "original" Smokey Bear returns to the Fair.

Built in 1982, this Smokey Bear greeted a whole generation of fairgoers to the N.C. Forest Service exhibit before he had to be replaced with a blow-up version in 2010. But the blow up version just didn’t  have as much personality as the original Smokey Bear and employees from district three were bound and determined to bring the original Smokey Bear back.

“He was the only one like him in the country,” said Brian Haines, N.C. Forest Service public information officer. “A lot of these guys remembered seeing this Smokey at the fair and wanted their own kids to see him too. But he needed a lot of work to continue greeting fairgoers each year.”

With a little innovation, determination and hard work, the District 3 team made the much-needed repairs. These repairs included: repairs to the hydraulics to operate the head swivel, head tilt, mouth and arm wave, replacing fiberglass in the legs, repainting and repairs to the wiring and audio components. Smokey Bear also got a new pair of blue jeans. District 3 includes Anson, Moore, Chatham, Richmond, Lee, Scotland, Montgomery and Stanly counties.

Be sure to stop by to visit Smokey Bear and the N.C. Forest Service exhibit and see some of the equipment that is used to fight forest fires. This equipment includes a helicopter, bulldozer and airplane. Also visit  exhibits about how to be Firewise and pick up a free button or a tree seedling to take home. This exhibit is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Soil and Water Conservation exhibit is also nearby. Check out their exhibit to learn how these districts are working in both urban and rural areas to protect our resources. There is also a mobile soil classroom.



Deep Fried Review: Ragin’ Cajun’s Deep Fried Bananas Foster

October 15, 2014 By: Category: 2014 N.C. State Fair

Check out our review of Ragin’ Cajuns Deep Fried Bananas Foster. Spoiler alert – we both give it two thumbs up!


Deep Fried Review: Twinx and Bacon Wrapped Reeses

October 14, 2014 By: Category: 2014 N.C. State Fair

On Monday, we hosted more than 50 members of the media at our annual Media Preview Luncheon. We gave them a sneak peek at several new things, including the Down to Earth Aerials, which will perform on the north lawn of Dorton Arena. This is definitely going to attract a crowd!

We also had the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources there to talk about its new exhibit in the North Lobby of Dorton Arena, North Carolina in the Great War.

The N.C. Horse Council also highlighted the activities they have scheduled for the Year of the Horse at the Hunt Horse Complex by offering the media five-minute riding lessons.

But the biggest buzz almost always involves the food. Murphy House uses the media lunch to introduce its newest deep-fried concoction. In the past, we’ve had Deep Fried Kool-Aid, Deep Fried HoHos, Deep Fried Cupcakes . . . just to name a few favorites. Each year things seem to get a little crazier. And the newest deep-fried treats are certainly out there. Take the Twinx, for example. A Twix candy bar stuffed into a Twinkie, wrapped with bacon, dipped into cake batter and deep fried. The second was a variation on the other. A slice of bacon wrapped around a Reese’s Cup and then battered and fried.

Funhouse and I did you a favor and sampled these two treats. (You’re welcome.)

I do have to say that my expression does not do justice to how good these treats were. I look a little undecided, but they really were good. I did prefer the Reese’s Cup. Not surprising though, because if I had to choose between a Twix, Twinkie or Reeese’s Cup, I would choose the Reese’s every time. The sweet and salty was more pronounced with the smaller treat. But if you’re a fan of the deep fried Twinkie, I’d definitely recommend you try out the Twinx. You can also ask for it without the bacon if you prefer.

That’s not the only new foods we featured at the media lunch. Tomorrow we’ll feature Ragin’ Cajun’s fair version of the traditional New Orleans’ dessert, Bananas Foster. And LaFarm Bakery had samples of some of the baked goods they will offer at the Agriculture Today exhibit near Gate 1. The Deep Fried Crew gives 10 thumbs up to the white chocolate baguette and the Piedmont sourdough. We’re also looking forward to getting some more of the chipotle pimento cheese they let us try.

To help you find your way to all of the new treats, we’ve got a map you can print out and bring with you on our website. Click here to download the New Foods map.

How does a family of 4 save at least $22?

October 14, 2014 By: Category: 2014 N.C. State Fair

Most fair enthusiasts know that the best way to see the fair (other than working there) is to get your tickets in advance. It saves you a good bit of cash and you can avoid standing in line to get your admission tickets. But you only have a few days left to buy them.

Adult tickets are $7 in advance, $9 at the gate. Children’s tickets are $3 in advance, $4 at the gate. Ride sheets (18 tickets per sheet) are $10 in advance, $1 each at the fair.

Discount tickets are available on the website and at nine retail locations through Thursday. On Thursday, the discount will be available through 11:59 p.m. on the web and you must be in line by 6 p.m. at the retail locations.

I did a bit of math (scary for a communications major, I know). A family of 4 who is buying 2 adult tickets (save $4), 2 children’s tickets (save $2) and 2 ride sheets (save $8) will save $22 over gate prices. So it goes to show that a little bit of planning will save you real money. You can then plan to use your savings to buy your favorite fair foods!

So don’t delay. Buy your tickets today.

Behind the scenes: State Fair Garden competition is an educational opportunity

October 13, 2014 By: Category: 2014 N.C. State Fair

Today was a busy day at the N.C. State Fair flower show as competitors put the finishing touches on their garden entries. Twenty-six entries were made in this year’s competition. Most of these entries are from individual gardeners or gardening clubs looking for blue ribbons and bragging rights. South Johnston High School in Four Oaks uses the competition as an educational opportunity and, if they win, a fundraiser.

“We have about 11 students from our horticulture class and FFA that come and set up the garden,” said agriculture teacher Cindy Adams. “Today we brought a bus to the fair to layout the garden we have been planning in class. We try to get local businesses to donate plants and supplies. So that the only money the club is spending is the cost of mileage to take the bus to the fair.” South Johnston High carpentry teacher Mike Bridges also helped the students by building a Ferris Wheel to incorporate into their garden. The school entered the Carnival of Color category, which calls for a playful use of plants, garden art and a carnival feel.

“The students learn to design something that could be incorporated into a larger space,” said Adams. “The garden at the fair just gives a small representation of what could be in your backyard, well, maybe without the Ferris Wheel.” Students take the time to plan the height and width of planting materials, mulch and sod. “The goal is to make sure things flow well and not feel crowded,” she added.

Gardens are judged on overall design, creativity, quality of construction, quality of plant materials, color harmony and textural contrast and landscape design, graphics and labeling. Each garden must include a plot plan and a 100-word or more garden concept statement.

First-place gardens earn the designer $800. Second place receives $700 and third place wins $600. Gardeners are also competing for the Arthur K. Pitzer Award, given to the judges pick from the best of the blue ribbon winners. The Gardener’s choice award is given to the garden voted best by garden exhibitors.

Last year, South Johnston placed third in their category. “If we do place the prize money will go back into club activities,” said Adams. “We have several students involved at the fair showing animals, through the gardens we get show another side to our FFA.”

Other area schools also have entries in the garden competitions including Wakefield High School in Wake Forest, Enloe High School in Raleigh and Longview School in Raleigh. Gardens are on display 9 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. during the State Fair.



5 days to go and I’m looking forward to …

October 11, 2014 By: Category: 2014 N.C. State Fair

Taking pictures with the giant pumpkins is an annual tradition

Giant pumpkins.

One of my favorite traditions at the fair is posing my kids in front of the giant pumpkins in the Exposition Center. For me it is always a must-do.  I try to get it in early in their fair visit – before they’re worn out from all the fun and while I can still bribe them with going to the rides as soon as we get the photo.

Judging by the lines that will sometimes form in front of these giant beauties, I’m not alone. By the end of the fair, I bet these pumpkins are the most photographed in North Carolina.

I am excited that the fair is supersizing the giant pumpkin competition this year and I can’t wait to see these giants roll into the fair. Or more accurately, be carried by forklift on a wooden pallet.

The fair has added a new competition this year in partnership with the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. Organizers are expecting extra-large entries from North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia. This group is internationally sanctioned and its website displays some impressive totals, including a 2,102-pound pumpkin from Switzerland. I can’t wait to see if we get some whoppers at our fair, too. To date, there are 24 pumpkins and 15 giant watermelons registered. Top prize money for pumpkins and watermelons is $1,250, second is $750 and third is $500. This competition is sanctioned by an international group and is different from the traditional giant pumpkin competition.

The traditional pumpkin competition only allows entries from in-state. Depending on the growing season that year, the fair generally gets entries ranging anywhere from 700 to 1,000 pounds. Last year’s winner tipped the scales at 799.6 pounds.

All of the giants will be on display in the Exposition Center. Be sure to bring your camera.




6 days to go and I’m looking forward to …

October 10, 2014 By: Category: 2014 N.C. State Fair

Well, the State Fair Press Office is set up, and looking out my window I can see a steady stream of vehicles pulling in to the fairgrounds. Some are hauling concessions, others bits of displays and exhibits. Our graphics folks are steadily unloading signage, and today was the first day of dropping off items to be judged in competition. A good crop of rides have already been dropped off, too. So the excitement is definitely in the air.


The exhibit will feature a reconstructed tent and historical artifacts

And even though this is my 19th(!?) fair, I’m still excited and looking forward to many parts of it. To me, it’s the buildings and exhibits that make the State Fair a true October Original. There is a lot that stays the same year after year, like the Folk Festival, Village of Yesteryear, Field of Dreams and more. We try to keep things fresh, so exhibits change and entertainers rotate in and out. (Except for the Racing Pigs. Management tried to give the pigs a break back in the late ’90s and it almost caused a riot.)

One thing that is changing this year is the exhibit in the north lobby of Dorton Arena. We’ve featured North Carolina Christmas trees in the lobby for many years and we know that people will be disappointed that this annual attraction won’t be there. But I’m excited for what will replace it. We’ve teamed up with the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources to bring “North Carolina in the Great War.” This marks the 100th anniversary of World War I, and even though the U.S. didn’t join the war until 1917, the exhibit will share stories of North Carolinians who joined the war effort, both before the U.S. entered the war and after. It will also highlight the fairgrounds’ role in preparing soldiers for war.

Historians, re-enactors and other staff from the N.C. Museum of History will be on hand to talk about the artifacts on display. In addition, 30 costumed historical interpreters will be on hand on Military Day, Wednesday, Oct. 22.  The group will be wearing historical uniforms from every American military conflict North Carolina has been involved in, from the War of Jenkins’ Ear in the early 1700s to the Vietnam War in the 1960s. They will participate in the parade at 11 a.m. and a special Military Uniform Revue on the Kitchen Craft Waterfall Stage at 3 p.m.


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