The NC Food Fair: When a State Fair isn’t an Option

By: Alexis Cope

I love fair food. It’s like a big holiday with its overwhelming spread of turkey or potatoes or some other indulgent and buttery food, except it’s a week long, someone else does the cooking, and everyone agrees that everything tastes just so dang good. So, of course, I went to this year’s NC Food Fair, which, in reality, was just the toned-down version of the annual state fair. 

Since 1853, the North Carolina State Fair has been held annually as a chance to showcase statewide accomplishments in agriculture, horticulture, livestock rearing, homemaking, artwork, and craftsmen and women. Of course, there’s always rides and attractions and shows, wrapping the whole week and a half long event into a complete package for everyone who comes. 

But in 2020, a year that’s been nothing but chaotic, the Fair was just not an option. For the first time in its history, the Fair would not happen due to concerns and restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, the NC Department of Agriculture found a fix: a Food Fair. For 11 days, 22 of the local food vendors of the State Fair parked their trucks and trailers on the fairgrounds to provide a little taste of the annual fun we all miss. Deep fried candy, oreos, and mac-n-cheese? Yep, it’s there. Turkey legs? Check. North Carolina barbeque? You bet. Fried dough, funnel cake? Of course. Gator tail on a stick? For some reason, yes. 

In addition to all the vendors, a small display of large pumpkins and watermelons from across the state was set up for all those who passed to admire or take a picture with. It was a sweet nod to all the farmers who were unable to show off their accomplishments this year. 

Safety was, obviously, paramount. The stands and lines were spread out, and everyone was wearing masks. Unless they were eating, of course, but even then there were pavilions and other areas to eat away from others if you wished. 

To all those who helped plan the food fair and to those vendors who participated: thank you. You have brought a fun little piece of the fair to all those who miss it, and from the flocks of people I saw, that’s quite a few people.

All in all, the food fair was a thoroughly enjoyable event. To be able to sit and eat powdered sugar-topped funnel cake with my family while watching a beautiful sunset brought a smile to my face, and to all the others I saw doing the same. Walking around under the, albeit dimmer, carnival lights was enough to make me content for the year. And to sit with a belly filled with barbecue – well, I was not complaining. 

The Food Fair ended this Sunday, after more than a week of fun. For information about future state fairs, visit ncstatefair.org. 

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