At the first N.C. State Fair in 1853, there were exhibits on farm implements and manure, machinery demonstrations, a hall featuring women’s handiwork and, the big draw, a 1/2-mile racetrack for horses.
Something they did not have was food.
It wasn’t until the fair’s organizers with the N.C. State Agricultural Society noticed Raleigh residents selling sandwiches and other fare to people on their way to the fairgrounds that they decided to begin selling food at the fair the next year, says Paul Blankinship, who organizes the fair’s history exhibit every year and has co-authored a book on the subject.
Food has gone from an afterthought to arguably the main attraction at the State Fair, which will open for the 150th time on Thursday. If you’re doing the math, yes, there were several years without a fair; the Civil War, two world wars and the insolvency of the agricultural society in the 1920s forced several cancellations.
Instead of a gathering for farmers, the fair has become a celebration of North Carolina agriculture. And this year, for the first time, that will include North Carolina beer and wine on the fairgrounds, in a new log building called the Our State Public House. It is in the Heritage Circle area.
A $10 ticket will entitle you to four 1½-ounce pours of wine or four-ounce samples of beer from among 80 of the state’s wineries and breweries. Tickets will be sold from noon to 8:30 p.m., and there is a limit of one per person. IDs will be checked at the door, and no one under 21 will be admitted.