For both of my outside-of-North-Carolina readers, this is the time of the year when the Triangle is taken over by emu burgers and Tilt-a-Pukes.  That’s right, I’m talking about the State Fair.

You should know that being the cheapskate I am, going to the fair is no easy task.  There are carnies that want nothing more than to separate me from my money all for the empty promise of an oversized stuffed frog that’s holding a heart.  I simply refuse to shell out twenty bucks to throw darts at a balloon to win said frog, unlike some lead pastors who shall remain nameless (but if you want a hint, it starts with J. and ends in D. Greear).

Nevertheless, in the sprit of Christian brotherhood and solidarity against the carnies with their spittle-covered microphone headsets, I offer you my list of handy tips for getting the most out of your state fair…


  • ŸEat a stick of butter for your last meal before attending the fair.  It’ll do wonders to get your cholesterol count prepped, plus it lubes everything up for the coming gastronomical feast.
  • Do your best to find a good parking spot.  Sure, you could park in one of the closer lots and pay money, but find a free lot.  The walk will warm up the butter in your arteries, and who doesn’t like warm butter?
  • Upon entering the fairgrounds, head immediately to the grist mill.  It’s an authentic working mill where turn-of-the-century corn is ground by a turn-of-the-century process and then the cornmeal is dropped into a five gallon turn-of-the-century polypropelene bucket.  As a reward for walking through the mill with various sizes of sweaty people staring at wooden mechanisms saying, “Woodja look at that,” you get a hushpuppy on a toothpick.
  • Immediately after the mill, head to the Hallway of Funny Gourds.  That’s not the real name and they’re not so much funny as they are weird, but one thing is for sure: North Carolinians take their gourds seriously.  There is actually a Gourd Society in this state…I am not making this up.
  • If you have children, make sure to pepper in a few directional statements throughout the day.  Something like “Oh please don’t touch that no definitely don’t touch that hey you don’t know where that’s been oh sweet heavens put that down what in the world I can’t believe you just touched THAT.”
  • Find the cheap food booth.  There are a few of them scattered throughout the fair, where you can get bottled water for a buck and look condescendingly on those people standing at the next booth over paying three times that amount.  You can also get a corn dog for a buck.  No, not a foot long.  But buy two of them and jam them together…remember, right now we’re going for cheap protein, not expensive treats.
  • Now it’s time to stake your claim on your favorites.  Tater twirls, turkey legs, Wisconsin fried cheese… Hey, you saved money on water.  Now you get to treat yourself to the stuff the fair is all about.  Make sure you ask for the warm ranch dressing.  It’s not warm on purpose, though…so on second thought you might want to skip it.  Mmmm…food poisoning.
  • Head over to the agri booths where plenty of cheap food awaits.  Nothing says “wise use of your fifty cents” like a jumbo pickle.  And if you want to sit through a produce-packed infomercial, you too can have a free salad and if you’re lucky, a sample paring knife.
  • Make sure to walk through the midway where you can hear about such wonders of the world as the world’s tiniest woman, the world’s biggest pig, the snake-headed woman, and the carnie who can exhibit the least passion on record for anybody with a pulse as he tries to motivate you to see all of the above.
  • Finally, you should end the night with a deep-fried candy product.  Mine this year was a Reese’s Cup.  It was a fitting companion for the butter.