Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fall Fun Part 3A: NC State Fair

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As promised, here's my next post in our Fall Fun series.  Every weekend in October has been filled with season-focused adventures.  First it was apple picking at Skytop Orchard in Flat Rock, then it was our local Renaissance Festival.  Last weekend was such a fun-filled one, I decided to break it into two posts.

So, Part 3A is all about our visit to the NC State Fair!  As a kid growing up in a rural area, I looked forward with excitement every fall to the Great Geauga County Fair.  I suspect it was a bigger highlight in my year than many of my friends', and I'm pretty sure it was for different reasons. Yeah, there were fun attractions like elephant ears and games where you could win goldfish or locker mirrors with Michael Jackson on them (dating myself much?), but to me the biggest draw was the animals.  When I think "fair," I think "draft horses," "cows" or "sheep."

For a few years, through 4H, I even had my own entries in the county fair.  I had a rabbit one year, and later I rode a (leased) horse in the Junior Fair Horse Show.  I won a few ribbons, nothing spectacular, but I also enjoyed spending days at a time having full run of the fairgrounds, petting sheep, trying my hand at milking a goat, finding out pigs aren’t much fun to pet.  And eating elephant ears.

So once we settled in to the seasons of North Carolina, my falls were missing something.  I guess I needed the sweet smell of cow poop to make them complete.  After two trips to Raleigh, I realized the State Fair is a whole different world.  Although there are many types of agricultural displays, the only day Miss Chef could accompany me was Sundays, when most of the livestock had already shipped out from the previous week, and the next week's bunch had yet to arrive.

This year, however, Miss Chef is available on the weekends, so I took a Friday off at work to have an opportunity to go pet the animals.  We had some things to take care of before leaving town, so it was about 4:00 before we finally got through the gates and worked our way toward the livestock barn…only to be a bit disappointed again.

There were plenty of cows in residence, but this was as close as we could get.

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Not that I’m at all excited about petting a cow’s rump, but I knew at this point that scritching goat heads and polishing donkey noses was still out of the picture.  Ah well, so it goes.  I suppose I should have expected it, after the huge e. coli scare at one of the county fairs nearby.  There were signs everywhere like this one:

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Still, I wasn’t too surprised, so my disappointment didn’t damper my fun very much.  After all, I got a nice whiff of healthy cow poop as we entered the arena.  (Seriously, I like that smell of manure, straw and wood shavings.  If you think I’m weird, you must be a suburbanite or city slicker.  Or in denial.) 

To make up for my inability to lay hands on hides, I made Miss Chef sit through a couple classes of cattle judging—this was a class of Brown Swiss heifers.

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Check out the judge, on the left in jacket and tie.  Awfully dressed up to look at a bunch of cow bums, isn’t he?  I like the fact that he got on the microphone after placing the animals, explaining what he saw in each—or didn’t see—to make his decisions.  I think he had a bit of an obsession with “tail set” though.

It seems every time we try to see the goats and sheep, the barn is closed to the public.  Are those animals too flighty to handle the crowds?  Next door, however, is the Ark, where the best of show winners are displayed, as well as a few “sample” animals.  You still can’t pet them, but you can get a little closer to them.  The light was a bit low, so videos actually turned out better than still pictures.

Here is a dairy goat eating hay and generally looking adorable.

And here are some mini donkeys seemingly tired of being adorable.

This brahma cow was looking rather noble, I thought.

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The other half of the building was occupied with other agricultural products—fruits and vegetables, mostly, but also honey and bees!

The guy you can hear droning on in the background (pun not intended but delightful!) was standing in a large wire mesh cage with a small swarm of bees.  Surprisingly, he was rather boring for being surrounded by bees.

After I got my fill of animal magnetism (and carefully washing our hands at one of the convenient hand-washing stations), it was time to explore the culinary delights of the fair.

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For two years, since we first heard about them, Miss Chef has been intrigued by this concept:

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Have you heard of these?  It’s a burger with Krispy Kreme donuts in the place of a bun.  Does it sound disgusting?  We couldn’t decide if it would be an unexpected treasure of flavors, or a ridiculous piece of American overload.  Finally we decided there was only one way to find out:

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I did promise you more exotic foods!

Tempting?  Miss Chef took one bite…thought to herself, “Is it really that bad?” and took another…and decided, “Yeah, it really is.”  I took three bites.  Miss Chef kept talking about how terrible the meat was, but I honestly couldn’t even taste it!  I tasted the donuts and the cheese, and that was about it.  So, after a total of five bites, this one hit the garbage can.

It still makes me wonder how it would taste with a good burger, though…

With that little experiment out of the way, we sampled some other more reliable fare—corn dogs, funnel cakes, corn on the cob. mozzarella sticks.  I also dragged Miss Chef through some more of the agricultural side of the fair.

There was a miniature farm aimed at children.  There were pretty flowers…

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…familiar friends…

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…and some regional specialties.

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Since we were back on that end of the fairgrounds, we just had to cruise through the poultry area.

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I thought the intricacy of the colors on this turkey’s feathers was amazing.

As evening fell, the other side of the fair came to prominence…ah, the glitz and glamour!

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No, we were done with fried foods by then…we headed to the flower displays, then to the Village of Yesteryear to enjoy some hot cider and rest for a few minutes in a quiet spot.  Then we had one last hurrah—Miss Chef wanted to win a prize on the midway.

I won’t tell you how much time and money she spent throwing darts at balloons, but this is what she chose when she finally worked her way up to the Extra-Large Prize level.


Don’t look at me, I told her to get the round, basketball-sized cow!  (Of course, right?)  I still have no idea why she thinks this is cool, but she had a hell of a lot of fun playing around with it on the way back to the car, so I guess it was a good choice for her.

So yes, thus ends this year’s installment of State Fair adventures.  We didn’t even stay for the fireworks.  But I will leave you with this cool light show instead.

Rosie update: She finished round 2 of antibiotics on Saturday, after two good weeks accident free.  I also decided to cut her rations back again, because she's definitely gained weight back.  But Tuesday night she seemed to have sprung a leak, all unknowing.  So Thursday she was back to the vet for re-tests, which all came out lovely and normal.  Next step is an ultrasound of her urinary system, and a sterile urine sample.  At least the vets and techs really seem to enjoy her!  Maybe they'll knock a few dollars off my next bill for the privilege of her presence...


  1. You mean to say you mentioned elephant ears several times and then DID NOT GET ONE????


    1. I found out a couple of years ago I am no longer capable of eating an entire elephant ear. I thought a funnel cake would be more feasible. I was wrong!

  2. Great photos, especially the first one!

    What IS it with the white pants for animal exhibitors? We have the same thing here, and it seems so impractical.

    1. I never really noticed. Maybe the judge is supposed to believe your cows don't poop? ;)

  3. Oh my gosh, fried everything! Holy cow. Speaking of which, you have good taste in cows. Brown Swiss are very nice cows.

    1. They are very sweet-looking, I agree. There was one heifer who kept mooing the whole time. She got placed last--maybe there's a deportment category.

  4. All that deep fried stuff doesn't even appeal to me. Good move on tossing the burger. I wouldn't have tried it even if it were free. Looks like a great time though!

    1. No deep fried goodness? I have seriously mis-judged you.

    2. Not that crap... Fried chicken and fish mmmmmm.

    3. Not that crap... Fried chicken and fish mmmmmm.

  5. Yow-wow, woman! A great time at the fair! I could spend all day here at your post, especially watching the goat video. I love goats. I do! SO much fun to see your fair. Ours are in August here. Come next year and you can get your hands on all sorts of animals. (And I don't mean that they will be between buns. What are they thinking with the doughnut burger? Really?) Thanks for this fun day at the fair!

    1. I dream of dragging Miss Chef back to my county fair one year. Who knows, maybe you can no longer pet the animals there either? My aunt once got a nasty bite on the shoulder from a draft horse; these days that would be cause for a lawsuit!


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