NC State Fair 2021: Everything to know about tickets, COVID-19 protocols, parking and more

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Saturday, October 16, 2021
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Rain arrives to the State Fair. Michael Perchick reports.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- It's back! For the first time in two years, people can enjoy the fun of the North Carolina State Fair.

All the usual staples are back: entertainment, rides, animals, family activities and deep-fried food delights.

The fair will be open every day through October 24 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.

Some fairgoers said it felt like a return to 'normal' as the State Fair got underway Thursday night. Michael Perchick reports.
It was a festive return for businesses and patrons at the North Carolina State Fair.

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Many have wondered whether the fair would require COVID-19 vaccinations or a negative COVID-19 test to enter.

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That won't be the case.

"We do believe that the NC State Fair can operate safely," said Kent Yelverton, State Fair manager. "Thank goodness for the vaccine. if not for a vaccine, we would not be able to have events like this. We've looked at other events. We've seen the information coming from other large events. Those events have not resulted in on-site transmission in large numbers."

It's back! For the first time in two years, people can enjoy the fun of the North Carolina State Fair.

Here's what you need to know before you go:


Warm, sunny, beautiful: A perfect start for the return of the NC State Fair.


Vaccinations against COVID-19 will not be required for entry into the fair. However, the N.C. State Fair encouraged all visitors to get their vaccination to protect themselves and their neighbors from the virus.

Fair organizers will also not enforce a mask mandate during the event.

"In Raleigh, there is a mask mandate, but that mandate does specifically exclude properties that are operated by other governmental agencies so we are not subject to the city of Raleigh mandate," Yelverton said.

He added that people are certainly encouraged to mask up if it makes them feel more comfortable.

The N.C. State Fair is spread over 345 acres but there are spaces that are inherently busy, regardless of the total number of people in attendance, the fair said in a news release.

"The No. 1 thing people tell us they come to the fair for is food," the release said. "This makes it extremely difficult on our staff and public safety officers to enforce a mask mandate. We are urging you to do your part and wear your face covering except when you are eating and drinking and when you cannot remain socially distanced, especially inside buildings and tents."

Ultimately the fair organizers said there will be a health and safety risk related to decided to attend the fair. They hope everybody attending will be considerate of others and do their part to make the event as safe and fun for everyone as possible by getting vaccinated, wearing a face covering, social distancing, washing your hands, and staying home if you feel any symptoms of illness.

"Seriously, we are all in this together," the fair organizers said. "A little kindness and patience will go a long way to making this event the best on record. The world is short-staffed, even the fair. Please be kind to those who have shown up and put in the hours to make the 2021 N.C. State Fair 'Worth the Wait!'"

Glenn Smith, a food vendor from Cary. will be working a booth that has been in the family since 1962. They sell ham biscuits, hot dogs and more. Smith has been going to the fair since he was 4, but last year was the first year since then that he missed -- because of the pandemic.

He said they'll work to keep the booth as clean as possible.

"We're just keeping everything sanitized, clean is all we do, clean the counters is all we can do," Smith said. "I think it's going to be fine. I think we'll be fine on the outside. Just don't get inside. That's where the germs gather. outside, they won't go out. I think it's a lot safer on the outside."

A huge fan is going up in what will be the crafts area for better airflow..

"We have installed bipolar ionization in all of our enclosed buildings that have four stair systems," Yelverton said. "The bipolar ionization allows the filtrations system in the building to capture more of the COVID-19 virus as the air circulates through the buildings."

About half a dozen hand-sanitizing stations will be installed.

"Of course, we encourage the three Ws, so hand washing is certainly encouraged," Yelverton said.


Discount tickets were available before the fair started. Now the tickets are full price but you can get them online or at walk-up locations.

Online: NC State Fair website, click here.

Walk-Up locations: Circle K, N.C. State Fair Gate 9 ticket booth off Trinity Road, the NC Museum of History, and the State Farmers' Market.


To improve safety, a clear bag policy will be implemented this year. Any size or type of clear bag is acceptable. Wristlets, diaper bags and medical equipment bags will be accepted into the fair, even if they are not clear, but will require additional inspection.

All fairgoers will enter the event through metal detectors and be subject to a search. Weapons, alcohol, drones, bikes, skateboards, scooters and pets are all prohibited. Security is also permitted to determine at the gate to refuse entry or confiscate other items at their discretion.


There will be Park and Ride lots located throughout the Triangle. Another option is to park at the lot at Reedy Creek and Edwards Mill roads and hop on a shuttle to Carter-Finley tunnel, which links you to Gate 8.

I-440, Wade Avenue, Hillsborough Street, Blue Ridge Road ... all will be busy as fairgoers arrive and depart the North Carolina State Fairgrounds.

Traffic around Raleigh is going to ramp up. Here's what you need to know.


Friday Frenzy - Oct. 15

Students can show their school identification or recent report card and get an $8 ticket. Those are not available online or in advance.

accessABILITY Day - Oct. 17

A team has been brainstorming for years on ways to make the fair more inclusive. From 8 a.m. to noon, rides and games will operate with no lights or music. Music stages will only play acoustic sets and the PA system will only be used for lost visitor announcements. There will be a "Bandwidth Chill Out Zone" where guests and take a break from the busy atmosphere outside. Noise-canceling headphones and guidebooks will also be available.

Century Farm Reunion - Oct. 18

The fair will welcome all farms that are part of its Century and Bicentennial Farms program.

To be eligible, a farm must have had continuous ownership by a family for 100 years or more. This ownership can be determined from an abstract such as a deed or land patents.

Senior Citizen Day - Oct. 19

Seniors can enter free of charge on Oct. 19.

Military Appreciation Day - Oct. 20

There will be a tractor parade at 10 a.m. and music from the 440th Army Band.

Smithfield Foods Hunger Relief Day - Oct. 21

Bring six cans of food and enter the fair for free.