State Fair's first weekend underway


Officially, 97,936 people made it out to the fairgrounds on Saturday. Comparatively, over 118,000 people made it out to last year's first Saturday.

A water main break caused a pedestrian detour on the east side of Dorton Arena Saturday morning. The break forced the arena to be shutdown, as well as the bathrooms by the commercial and education building. Crews repaired the break before Saturday night's concert inside Dorton Arena. Nothing was scheduled inside the arena during the day.

The fair first opened for a half day on Thursday, and attendance was down compared to the previous two years. In all, 42,763 ventured out for opening day. The record for Thursday attendance was set in 2010 with 47,677 people.

The numbers picked up for the first full day Friday, as ABC11 found plenty of fairgoers stuck in traffic after a night out. Nearly 73,000 people made it out to the first full day of action, beating last year's attendance of 67,508.

The State Highway patrol says from now until next Sunday people can expect the fair's surrounding areas to be hectic and chaotic. They've brought more than 80 troopers in to help with this fair influx.

To avoid bottlenecked traffic, the Highway Patrol has some suggestions. Coming from the west, the department suggests taking Wade Avenue and then the Edwards Mills exit. From the east, drivers should use Interstate 440 and get off at Wade Avenue or Hillsborough Street.

A fair official says that, especially for the weekend, the bus is the best pick because there are designated bus lanes that will bring you to the fair faster.

Another sign that attendance could exceed expectations, fair officials say entries for a lot of the contests are up by 40 or 50 percent. That shows them the popularity of the fair, and they say they want people to come for the usual attractions here but not to forget the industry that brings North Carolina millions and millions of dollars.

"We're here to enjoy the rides, the music, the food, everything that the fair should be," said N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "But don't forget agriculture's role and this year we're going to showcase modern agriculture and how we operate today."

The fair opens at 8 a.m. each day and closes each night at midnight. The fair runs through Oct. 27 at the State Fairgrounds.

Get the full schedule of events and tickets at:

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