When the air turns crisp, it signals an autumn rite of passage here in the Carolinas. Soon, the midway will blaze with lights and music, as giant stuffed animals and blue ribbons beckon. Cue the fried foods.
North Carolina’s lineup never fails with offerings like Fry Me to the Moon—a deep-fried chocolate Moon Pie stuffed with Ho Hos, peanut butter cups and Oreos, topped with cream cheese, chocolate syrup and powdered sugar. Need more energy? Try the Bacon S’more—a quarter-pound of maple-syrup grilled bacon on a stick dipped in chocolate, marshmallow fluff and graham cracker crumbles,
— it wouldn’t be a fair without a giant turkey leg or a funnel cake’s alluring aroma.
South Carolina’s moniker is “all fried – all the time” including this year’s birthday pops and Deep Fried Funfetti Cake Pops by Caro cake Foods, adding to its popular menu items of fried Snickers, Oreos and Reese’s Cups. For carnivores, a parmesan-crusted burger and quesadilla burger await.
New Rides Expected
North Carolina’s Midway aims for nearly 100 rides this year. On the mild side, kids can get their Jack Sparrow on at Pirate’s Island Interactive Play Port in Kiddieland, while adrenaline junkies will no doubt queue up for the return of the Super Cyclone Coaster near the Kerr Scott Building. The Ferris Wheel is a not only a great place for a kiss, but offers a bird’s-eye view of the fireworks that close the fair each night.
South Carolina adds the Charlie Chopper, Freak Out and Tornado. Charlie Chopper features four helicopters that soar up 50 feet in the sky and gently sway up, down and round and round. Each chopper seats four, but front cockpit seats have control on the throttle. Children can ride alone or with parents. The Freak Out towers at 70 feet and seats 16, taking riders on a heart-pounding sky-ride. Over-the-shoulder harnesses secure passengers, and seats rotate slowly before they begin to swing horizontally upward achieving as much as a 120-degree angle.
The Tornado’s six arms hold four bucket seats in each car where riders control the spin rate. When the ride starts to spin, the center lifts and swings the cars outward.
North Carolina has two new on-the-spot competitions: a Kids Sugar Cube Building Contest (ages 4-12) and a Team Cake Decorating Contest (two per team on a deadline). N.C. coffee roasters will be judged this year, and the N.C. Egg Association’s Egg Art Competition now includes a young artists category, 18 and younger; also a group home category has been added under the exceptional/special needs categories in the Culinary and Handicrafts and Hobbies departments.
South Carolina State Fair has a King Arthur Flour Baking Contest (like the one in North Carolina). New this year is its Best & Most Delicious Frosted Cupcake in two judged divisions, adults 18+ (amateurs only) and youth 8-17. The long list of other food competitions is similar among the sister states like pies, cakes, pickles and more. Over $300K in premiums and awards are presented in S.C.’s competitive categories, but nothing boasts success like a state fair blue ribbon.
Beer and Wine Competitions
North Carolina celebrates two titles long before this year’s judging gets underway: most craft breweries in the American South (more than 170 breweries and brewpubs), and America’s oldest cultivated grapevine (circa 1584) located on the Outer Banks. That said, amateur and commercial makers will go head to head in separate competitions at the fair in more than 100 sub-categories, including wine. Commercial brewers vie to take home the coveted Best of Show award. Among winners in the wine competition’s 22 categories will be Best of Show and Best of Muscadine, the top awards for commercial wines.
South Carolina does not have a beer competition but there are plenty of wine winners to be crowned: Six sections of competition with two to five classes in each section (percentages shown are for residual sugar):
–Red Grape Table Wine–Dry (less than 1%) and Semi-Dry (between 1-3%)
–White Grape Table Wine–Dry (less than 1%) and Semi-Dry (between 1-3%)
–Fruit Table Wine–Sweet (more than 3%)
–Dessert Wine–Sweet (more than 6%)
–The giant pumpkins, usually averaging 400-500 pounds, on display in the Expo Center.
–Concerts and musical acts like N.C.’s Homegrown Music Fest celebrating North Carolina artists on three stages throughout the fairgrounds. (American Idol winner Scotty McCreery from Garner, N.C., performed in the past.)
–The Folk Festival will draw talented dancers and musicians from across the state looking to take home the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Trophy awarded to the individual or group that best exemplifies North Carolina’s musical heritage. The 10-day competition features performances ranging from old-time bluegrass music to high-energy clogging.
–Sandscapes features 75,000 tons of sand. The fair’s artists turn huge piles of sand into creative wonders. The imagery continues this year as the work-in-progress will come to life over several days. Featured daily in the Ellison and Ruff Buildings.
–Swifty Swine Racing and Swimming Pigs (check SCStateFair.org for daily schedule).
–NASCAR Night with some of NASCAR’s greats on hand.
–Border Collie Exhibition featuring Bill Coburn and his Border Collies from Windy Knolls Farm. Coburn’s commands direct the dogs to herd sheep and ducks. Performances at Abernathy Arena, Oct. 18, 19 and 20.
North Carolina: “We hope to create an atmosphere where families and friends celebrate everything that is uniquely North Carolina while making memories that will last a lifetime. We pride ourselves on seeking out and showcasing the finest of North Carolina and strive to bring together the agriculture, food, crafts and fun that make up our great state.” – Tyson Watson, Marketing and Promotions Assistant
South Carolina: “As a non-profit organization, the fair fulfills its mission to improve our state by awarding over $300,000 in scholarships annually to help educate South Carolina’s young adults. We bring 12 days of exhibits, competitions, food, midway rides and big-name entertainment to Columbia each October with the goal of continuing to fund our scholarship program.”– Nancy Smith, Assistant Manager
North Carolina organizers say come early and buy tickets early (online at www.NCStateFair.org or at Food Lion stores statewide). Historically, attendance is a little lighter opening day, and the first weekend is less crowded than the second weekend. Best deal for rides are wristband days with unlimited rides for one price: $28 on Opening Day Oct. 13 and $35 on Oct. 14, 17 and 18.
South Carolina State Fair will now feature Pay-One-Price (POP) ride days every day the fair operates. Patrons can enjoy unlimited rides by exchanging a ride voucher for a POP Wristband at any fairground ticket kiosk. Ex: One $25 advance voucher is equal to one wristband (unlimited rides). Fair-goers also can purchase ride vouchers in advance online at SCStateFair.org or at Walgreens for $25. Between noon and 2p.m. weekdays, fair patrons can pay $10 cash for an admission ticket and then get a $10 refund if they exit the fair before 2p.m.–returning their ticket to the ticket booth. Lunch at the fairgrounds, anyone?
By The Numbers
South Carolina: Oct. 12-23 at 1200 Rosewood Dr. , Columbia, S.C.
North Carolina: Oct. 13-23 at 1025 Blue Ridge Rd. Raleigh, N.C.
South Carolina: 500,000
North Carolina: 950,000+
South Carolina: $7 in advance; $10 during fair; free for all active and retired military and their families (ID required); Age 55+ $7; free to children 5 and younger.
North Carolina: Adults 13-64 $8 in advance or $10 at the gate and $6 for military with ID; children 6-12 are $3 and $5 respectively; free for children 5 and under and seniors 65 and up.
*Group rates available for both state fairs.