It’s official — fair season is upon us.
You might be thinking that summer hasn’t arrived, never mind October when the annual State Fair takes place. Well, the State Fair is just one of 46 agricultural fairs licensed by the NCDA&CS, and this year, the fun begins at the Alamance County Fair on Tuesday, May 5.
What is an agricultural fair? First held as an opportunity for farmers to showcase their crops, livestock and new technology, today’s fairs continue that tradition by promoting agricultural heritage to a growing urban population. Our department gets involved to ensure that any event wanting to call itself a “fair” meets certain criteria, including:
- The fair must offer a variety of agriculturally based competitions, with categories that reward the best field and horticultural crops, baked goods, hand-made clothing, flowers, livestock and more. The fair must promote these competitions, usually in the form of a premium book, and have at least 50 exhibitors and 150 entries.
- Encourage local 4-H Clubs, FFA members and commodity groups to participate in all aspects of the fair, and have information about these organizations on display.
- Offer to give back at least 10 percent of the fair’s gross receipts for competition prize money.
You may notice that fairs are not required to have rides, games or entertainment, though most do. (Fairs are also not required to have delicious deep-fried goodies, but most have those, too!)
Depending on the fair, you’ll find free or low-cost admission, hundreds of goats and llamas or just a few rabbits and baby chicks, special days for students or seniors, and much more. Some fairs are run by an American Legion Post and some are managed by the County Cooperative Extension agent. Each fair across the state is different and reflects the traditions and values of the local community.
Bottom line – fairs are not only fun, but unique, educational and rooted in agriculture. Now that fair season is upon us, I encourage you to find a fair near you. Here is a map to help you on your way.