Opening day for Rowan County Fair
By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — While thrilling rides and fried food may top the list for many fairgoers in Rowan County, interest has picked up this year in old-fashioned fair activities like exhibiting vegetables and showing farm animals.
The Rowan County Fair’s three exhibition halls drew 100 more participants than last year and 150 more entries, Fair Manager Johnny Love said.
Flower arrangements, quilted handbags, gigantic watermelon and silky-smooth livestock filled the metal buildings Monday, the fair’s opening night. Ribbons marked winning entries, and children sometimes struggled to handle goats and sheep larger than themselves in the show ring.
“I still want an old-timey county fair,” said Love, directing the fair for the fourth year.
When he talks about the event, Love likes to emphasize the “agricultural” part of the official title, the 60th annual Rowan County Agricultural and Industrial Fair.
“Our number one mission is to educate the community about agriculture and number two to help the community,” he said. “That’s first and foremost.”
Agriculture remains the top industry in both the state and Rowan County, but many children don’t realize where the food they eat comes from, Love said.
“Most kids nowadays don’t know corn comes from a field and potatoes are roots that grow underground,” he said. “Most kids think these things come from Food Lion.”
High school horticulture students from Carson and East Rowan high schools put on an AgriKids Academy, where children learned to milk a cow, gather eggs and plant a seed.
“It teaches kids that food comes from the ground, not the grocery store,” Carson student Nathan Funderburk said.
Some children didn’t have to visit the AgriKids Academy or petting barn to learn about agriculture. Dressed in western shirts, Wrangler jeans and cowboys boots, dozens of kids spent Monday night preparing and showing farm animals.
Mark Hayes’ daughter, Lauren, showed sheep. The 9-year-old, in her fourth year of animal exhibition, has learned discipline and how to perform in front of an audience, as well as having lots of fun, Hayes said.
Raising animals is so labor-intensive for Lauren and her mother Erin, “it’s almost like a full-time job,” Hayes said. “I’m just the go-fer.”
Many kids hanging around the show ring talked about the hard work it takes to raise a fair-worthy sheep or goat. Clarke Phifer’s discipline paid off with a second-place ribbon in showing sheep that will send the 17-year-old to the N.C. State Fair.
“It’s fun, but it’s hard work,” she said. “But in the end, when you get in the ring, it’s worth it.”
Exhibition events are open to adults as well as children. Sara Hill won 11 blue ribbons this year and best in show for floral arranging.
“We should always have a county fair,” she said. “It gives people a chance to show their talent in growing things and showing animals.”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.
Today at the fair
4 p.m. — Gates open; School Days: Public school children from designated area schools admitted for $1 or two cans of food with special ticket
4:45 p.m. — Lamb dress-up show
5 p.m. — Rides and food open. Wristband for unlimited rides, $20
5 p.m. — Beef cattle show
5 p.m. and 7 p.m. — Health System Cooking Show
6:30 p.m. — To be announced
7:30 p.m. — Nojoe’s Clown Circus
8:30 p.m. — To be announced
9:30 p.m. — Pirates of the Colombian Caribbean
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