I can feel it in the air. Fall has officially arrived, the temperatures are cooler but the fun will soon be heating up at the N.C. State Fairgrounds when the 2012 State Fair opens on Thursday, Oct. 11 at 3 p.m. This is the 145th time that North Carolina will celebrate and enjoy the food, more than 100 rides, entertainment, exhibits and my favorite thing, the competitive entries.
My name is Sydney McCoy; I am now 11 years old and I started entering competitions at the fair when I was 4 years old. I am proud to say that I have won 83 ribbons over the years and one Best of Show. It has been such a wonderful part of my life and taught me so many things. Let me tell you about some of my past entries and where you can go to see the new ones this year.
This year’s theme for the fair is “Bumper Crop of Fun” and the entry department has received a bumper crop of fantastic entries from all over North Carolina. There are 15 ladies that work non-stop for many weeks before the fair opens getting all of the entries logged in, printing entry tags and getting the areas set up to display them. Ms. Betty Shaw has been working in the department for more than 20 years along with many of her friends. They are the behind-the-scenes team that makes it all happen. Several years ago, the entry department announced that you could enter online, which is so fast and easy and has saved time and money for the department.
Entries have many categories for professionals, amateurs and kids. Entries have to be at the Fair several days before it opens. Every item that is entered is reviewed by the judges prior to the fair opening and the winners are awarded a ribbon and in many categories, prize money as well. There are also awards given out for Best of Show in different classes. This year the total prize money is more than $749,000, which includes all categories and livestock. Many of the judges have been at the fair for numerous years and have such a passion for what they do.
One of my first things to see each year are the decorated cakes that are in the Education Building, which is on the corner of Hillsborough Street and Blue Ridge Drive. They are beautiful and let me tell you a secret; they are not made out of real cake! All of the decorated cakes are made with Styrofoam and then decorated with edible fondant, frosting and embellishments. Some of my past entries in this category have been a die and swimming pool. There are also baked items, canned goods and candies in that section. After the entries are dropped off before the fair, there are 39 judges that get to taste and rate every entry in the baking department and 89 all together for that building. Mmmm…now that’s a job that I would like to get some day!
Right across from the baking and canning section are the quilts, hook rugs, needle point weaving and hand spinning. Right in the middle you can see the most beautiful hand crafted items and sewed garments. I have entered and won several ribbons in the sewing department for aprons and skirts. Last year I made an apron out of Capri Sun drink containers with a lined back. I got second place for it and I was told that it got almost as many comments as the Best of Show dress did. When I cooked with Rachael Ray in New York, I gave her my apron. Stop by this year and see if you can tell which one I entered. Then comes the 4-H section, which is where I started my entries. Stroll down the aisles and see things like candles, decorated sweat shirts, tie-dyed items, photography and many other crafts. There are a variety of things that you can enter in 4-H for kids of all ages. Take a look with your family this year and start making things together for next year’s fair. It is never too early to start! Right before the doors and those yummy hushpuppy samples, stop by and see the insect and entomology entries. They are so cool. Keep on going and you will see the Best of Show entries from other counties and then there is the Fine Dining. There are 8 tables that will be set up for four people. The themes this year are “Sunday Dinner at Grandma’s House” and “Holiday Dinner.” Make sure you stop by and get some fantastic decorating ideas. Right next to the Best of Show entries is a magical place that has a new cooking contest each day at the “Special Cooking Contest Area.”
Lisa Prince, who you might have seen on WRAL and UNC-TV, has brightened up the building with a different cooking contest every day of the fair that have winning prizes of up to $250 for the winner and of course, bragging rights. Their recipes will appear in a flyer for the fair next year. Enter your best recipe for the 12 different sponsors’ contests by mail to the N.C. State Fair by Friday, Oct. 5. This year there is a new contest in this area that is just for kids ages 4-12. It is a “Kids Kookie Dekorating Kontest” that will be held from Oct. 17 to Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. each day. The first 10 contestants to register that day, one hour before the contest, will compete for a top prize of $15.
Next on my list to see are the photography and art exhibits that are in the Kerr Scott Building as well as the school art entries. While you are walking to this building make sure that you see the 4-H Hay Bales. Put some time aside for this exhibit, it has so many isles of beautiful art that has been submitted and who knows, you may even see someone’s work that might be famous one day! Every year I have submitted my photography and art. Kim Crenshaw, who is local photographer, awards students photography from both private and public schools. She wants to get kids of all ages motivated about photography and having them see the world in all different ways. Although I have not won a ribbon in that department yet, I did get and honorable mention for one of my art pieces. The News and Observer hosts an essay competition for young aspiring writers. There are four different age groups for kids from K through 12th grade. Each has a different prompt and the top prize money is $100. This year they received more than 90 entries.
Right next door is the Got to be NC Building. Although there are no competitions in this area, you have to stop by and see the gigantic shopping cart and sample some of the most delicious products made in North Carolina. In May, I did some cooking demos at Got to be NC, which were so much fun and I learned so much. Make sure you put this festival on your calendar for next year, May 17-19, 2013 and stop by the cooking stage.
Around the corner of the Scott Building is a white tent, which holds the Folk Festival. “Next year will be the 65th anniversary and it has grown tremendously,” said Audrey Perry. There are all kinds of clogging, smooth dancing, square dance and international dances as well instrumental and vocal acts. There are two shows a day, one at 10 a.m. and the other at 2 p.m. Next year will be their 65th anniversary at the Fair. Come and see me perform on the Folk Festival stage on Saturday, Oct. 13. This will be my first time in this competition.
Off we go the Exposition Building, which has the most beautiful and largest produce grown right here in our state. Last year, the biggest pumpkin weighed in at 522.8 pounds. The largest Watermelon was 282.2 pounds. We were told that once it grows that large it does not have the sweet taste we love during the summer months. North Carolina is the largest Sweet Potato grower and this year I was invited to Jones Farms for a tour of their Sweet Potato Farm and how they are grown. What a fantastic day. Last year, the largest Sweet Potato weighed in at 19.05 pounds. I wonder how many marshmallows you would need for it. I love to enter the decorated pumpkin and apple contests. Some of my entries have included a bowling alley, solar system and a worm. Off to the side is the honey section, which has so many hidden treasures you might not have seen before. You can see live bees and their hives, honey butter and all kinds of cooking entries that have to be made with honey. Some of my favorite entries have been the BBQ and Salad dressing and Devil’s Food cake. One year I entered the Beekeeping coloring book contest. You can also see livestock entries in this building and sit down and milk a cow, which is sponsored by the N.C. Veterinary Hospital.
Just down the road is the Handcrafts and Hobby building, which is tucked away next to the N.C. State Howling Cow Ice Cream Booth. If you have never been in there before, you are in for a treat. Right when you step in the door you can see gourd birdhouses and wreaths. There are so many different forms of artwork, painting, wood work, scrapbooking, Lego’s, samples of fudge and beautiful egg decorating. The best of show in the egg decorating goes to the White House. This is probably my favorite place for my entries over the years. It is where I won my Best of Show Ribbon for my painted apron. I have never missed entering my Gourd Birdhouse, which I get every year from Green Level Gourd Farm in Apex. Last year I made it into a hot air balloon. Some of my other favorite entries have been painted glass, ceramics, pattern and original on fabric, baked clay and jewelry. These entries will inspire you to get thinking about what you can enter this year and there is even a recycling entry.
The last stop that I will take you to is the most breathtaking - the Flower and Garden exhibit where my friend Ms. Eleanor works. There are individual gardens, flowers, plants of all kinds and sizes, exotics and bonsai. Take some time smell the flowers, take a stroll through the gardens, sit on the bigger than life size Adirondack chair and admire the garden art and scarecrows and take a photo with the nine-foot Rock-it, the robot. This year there is a new addition, the “Tree of Life.” There are three different shows in this department, so the exhibits are always fresh and changing. I have entered many arrangements, terrariums and flowers. One day my goal is to do an entire garden. Last year I saw DeVine. She is a stilt walker who looks like a vine. You do not want to miss her. This year there also will be two pumpkin carving demos in the morning and two in the afternoon every day. At 2 p.m. each day, starting on Friday, Oct. 12, there will be a butterfly demo and release. Stop by and see the first ever Mini Putt Putt course that will be an educational pesticide course for all to enjoy. This will run continuously every day. After the fair is over, on Monday, Oct. 22 at 8 a.m. to noon, you can come to the garden section and buy the mums you see displayed during the fair and some plants from the various gardens. The cost is $3.50 for one to nine mums and then $2.50 for 10 or more.
Get your entry and ride tickets early online or there are many locations that you go stop by. Visit the N.C. State Fair Grounds site at http://www.ncstatefair.org/index.htm for ticket information, special shows, times and so much more information about the 2012 N.C. State Fair, which is sure to be a Bumper Crop of Fun!
Thank you for joining me today. Enjoy the entries from all over North Carolina and I hope that you and your family will enter your unique entries in the State Fair. Follow my entries and coverage of the Fair on my web site, http://sydneymccoy.com/ and my You Tube Channel, “At Home with Sydney.”