Cabarrus County rings in fair season
By Hugh Fisher
CONCORD — Autumn has officially come to Cabarrus County.
And crowds pressed close to the gateway for Saturday’s ceremonial ribbon-cutting to officially open the 59th annual Cabarrus County Fair.
Inside the gates of the Cabarrus Arena and Event Center, the rides, festive food and attractions that come with fair season were ready and waiting.
Fair Manager Kate Parker said that, even as other counties are closing their fairs due to lack of funding and interest, Cabarrus’ fair is growing.
“We expect between 80,000 and 90,000 (visitors) this year,” Parker said.
Last year, about 88,000 came to the fair.
This year, in addition to sweet treats and adrenaline-pumping rides, there is a special focus on local agriculture.
Of course, county fairs have always focused on farm and family.
But Mary Ann Cooper, exhibit director, said this year, Parker “has taken it to another level.”
There are more than 3,000 exhibits, from the traditional baked and canned foods to livestock, crafts and artwork.
In addition, hundreds of area children have put their arts and crafts on display.
Each child under 9 will receive a $1 prize for each entry and a special green ribbon.
This, Cooper said, is meant to encourage them to take part in competition when they are old enough.
There are also some new and unique categories.
In addition to the typical fair competitions, crafts made from recycled goods and sculptures made from Lego blocks are on display.
Meanwhile, in a world more focused on TV and social media, there’s a growing movement to teach children and adults just where their food comes from.
“A lot of children that live in the city don’t have an opportunity to see those vegetables,” Cooper said of the horticulture displays.
“That’s what coming to the fair is about,” she said.
Parker said that folks who come to the fair often walk away with an interest in growing vegetables, or learning arts and crafts.
Those people call back, she said, to learn more.
“We’re able to connect them to the superintendents and assistant superintendents of each of those departments,” Parker said.
In the middle of one exhibit hall, chef David Bettendorf of Embassy Suites, Concord, prepared to give a cooking demonstration,
“We’re going to do brine-seared chicken with a radish, red onion and apple slaw,” he said.
All of the ingredients were locally grown.
Bettendorf volunteers with the Cabarrus Food Policy Council.
“I hope they’ll see what you can do with what you have available around here,” he said.
Not far away, Juleen Parker, 7, was getting a lesson on local agriculture.
Volunteer Kathy Trombley showed him and other children a rack filled with fruits and vegetables.
All of them were grown in Cabarrus or surrounding counties.
“I learned lots of new words and lots of new stuff,” Parker said. “I’m learning that there’s lots of veggies and plants.”
Next door, 14-year-old Samantha Mozingo of Mount Pleasant High School FFA helped get Cinnamon, a Brown Swiss cow, ready for milking.
“Your milk doesn’t come from the grocery store,” fellow student and FFA member Cassandra Bergeron said. “It comes from the cow itself.”
Matt Barrier, livestock coordinator for the fair and agriculture teacher at Mount Pleasant High, said the fair is a great educational opportunity.
“It’s important for them to be able to meet folks in the community and pass on the info they learned in their classes to the general public,” Barrier said.
Meanwhile, a lot is being done to make the fair more attractive to local families.
There are several new rides this year, and prices have stayed the same.
“A lot of other fairs have increased their ticket prices to meet costs,” Parker said.
“We used to charge for parking. We stopped,” she said.
And, instead of trying to pack the house with expensive national music acts, this year the focus is on local artists, Parker said.
“If we’re going to be paying a band, we want it to be someone we can support in our local community,” Parker said.
“In the near future, we don’t anticipate raising our prices.”
The Cabarrus County Fair is open daily through Sept. 17.
Today only, admission is free between 1 and 3 p.m. when patrons bring canned goods to donate to Cooperative Christian Ministry.
Four cans are good for one adult admission, and two cans are good for a child aged 6 to 11.
For more information, including hours and entertainment schedules, go to www.Cabarruscountyfair.com.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 794-797-4244.
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