History of The North Carolina Mountain State Fair
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History of The North Carolina Mountain State Fair

A brief history…

1994 The gates opened Sept. 5, 1994 for the new North Carolina Mountain State Fair, operated by the Division of Marketing for the N.C. Department of Agriculture. The five day fair was held in the McGough Arena and surrounding buildings, with the carnival in the parking lot. More than 45,000 visitors came through the gates that year.

1995 The fair was again held in the upper portion of the WNC Ag Center for the second year, but plans and money were in place for a new permanent building on the lower portion of the grounds. The lower grounds were used for parking that year.

1996 Visitors welcomed the new livestock building, now called the Davis Arena, in 1996. The fair remained a five-day event, and despite rain on four of the five days, attendance climbed to 64,000. Hurricane Fran decimated much of eastern North Carolina during the fair, but western N.C. escaped Fran. The carnival moved “down the hill” this year to its current location.

1997 Based on the success of the first three fairs, the schedule was increased from five to nine days this year. Attendance topped 100,000 for the first time, and significant increases were noted in competitive entries, too.

1998 To fully encompass two weekends, the fair schedule increased from nine to 10 days in 1998. More and more citizens of western N.C. brought their competitive entries trying to get ribbons and a piece of the $75,000 offered in prize money. Attendance jumped to 130,000.

1999 Hurricane Floyd came to the 1999 Mountain State Fair and caused the first cancellation of a day of the fair. But one day later, the fair re-opened. We set a one-day attendance record of over 32,000 visitors on the fi rst Saturday. And new satellite parking areas and shuttle buses were added this year.

2000 Attendance hit 180,000 this year, generating more revenues and allowing the fair to complete new projects like the addition of more restrooms, more paved parking and walkways, etc. Entry numbers in the competitive exhibits continued to grow.

2001 We all stopped and mourned on 9/11/2001, right in the middle of the fair. The decision was made to keep the fair running, and moments of silence were held in honor of those lost. Visitors had a new view of the fair from the aerial tram which ran from the main gate to the original fairgrounds.

2002 New competitions were added to the ’02 fair, with 132 competitors in the Gospel Singing, 109 musicians in the Mountain Music Festival, 1,389 cloggers and 2,444 livestock exhibitors. Records were set on attendance for Ingles Day and for the total ride revenue collected for the fair.

2003 The N.C. Mountain State Fair earned the honor of being the third largest fair in the state this year when attendance topped 186,000. Due to the popularity of the Gospel Singing Competition, it was held on both Sundays to allow more competitors to join. Motorsports entertainment joined the line-up with monster truck and motorcycle shows in McGough Arena. The aerial tram was gone in 2003, but the Moo-Ternity Ward returned showcasing births of dairy calves at the fair.

2004 Fairgoers celebrated a “Harvest of Fun” this year with a new carnival company at the fair. Powers replaced Drew and brought a new mix of rides to the fair. Attendance remained steady despite the flooding from two hurricanes before and during the fair. The original satellite parking lot was under six feet of water, and Grace Community Church loaned the fair the use of their paved lots for overflow.

2005 Matt Buchanan took over as manager of the fair from Bill Edmondson, the original manager who retired before the ’05 fair. The fair partnered with Ingles Supermarkets to generate more visibility and increase advance ticket sales, setting a record. On-line advance tickets sales also hit a new record, and advance tickets were marketed at Asheville Tourists games and at the Apple Festival. Special emphasis was placed on hand-washing to prevent the spread of e-coli and other diseases. Strong attendance boosted fair numbers and generated profits for future improvements to the facilities.

2006 The 2006 edition of the NC Mountain State Fair took place September 8-17 with the theme “Go Hog Wild”. Attendance was the third highest ever, totaling 177,813. Great concerts in McGough Arena included a sell-out Josh Turner. Commissioner Troxler drove into opening ceremonies in the Got to be NC Big Cart, which stayed on the grounds for several days. The Mountain Music Festival moved out from the Hospitality Tent to its own outdoor theater on Heritage Boulevard, drawing large crowds for each performance.

2007 This was a new record breaking year in many different ways with “Full Throttle Fun” and Avery the goat as our mascot. There were four record-breaking days (opening Friday, Monday and the last Saturday and Sunday) with an overall record attendance of 187,819. We only had one day of rain, which cleared up, for most of the afternoon. The fair will continue to move “Full Throttle” ahead with the announcement of two new buildings being built on the fair grounds to better accommodate future growth and other non-fair uses.

2008 15th year Anniversary! We finished the fair with two recorded-breaking days (Monday, 2nd Friday) with an overall attendance of 177,869. There was only one bad day of rain but the gas shortage caught us on the 2nd weekend. Our fair theme, “Best of the West”, served us proud as we had a great fair with representation of all the wonderful opportunities we have here in Western North Carolina.

2009 The Virginia C Boone Mountain Heritage Center and the Livestock/Expo Building opened just in time for “How the West Was Fun”. Drew Amusements provided fairgoers the experience of seeing the grounds from the sky in the Chairlift. A record breaking day occurred on Monday with 14,482 folks coming through the gates; however the attendance only reached 160,242 due to rain the last four days. Competitive entries were displayed within the Expo Building and the Heritage Crafters in the Virginia C Boone Mountain Heritage Center.

2010 A great year for “Cultivating Fun!” With only one day of rain, visitors poured in to enjoy all that the fair had to offer. Three days set new attendance records with the overall attendance of 185, 323 being just 2,496 short of the record set in 2007. “Ingles Day” also set a record amount of food collected which was given to MANNA Food Bank. Drew Amusements returned with midway rides as well as the chairlift and the new Bojangles Stage hosted local bands. Two scholarships were awarded by the WNC Beef Commission in memory of Scotty Cochran. Barbara Worley and “Burder” Reeves were inducted into the Fair’s “Livestock Hall of Fame.”

2011 Brought, for the first time ever, consecutive years of 180,531 people in attendance. The opening of the newly remodeled Davis Arena/Event Center offered the Commercial Exhibitors an inside, dry, climate-controlled venue. The Moo-ternity Ward returned, thanks to the help of local dairy cattle farmers; and Livestock Shows moved into the McGough Arena. Previous money used for concerts was used to add more free entertainment for the fairgoers. First edition of the NC Mountain State Fair Cookbook was available for purchase. The weather overall was good except for one rainy day and the last three days being on the chilly side.

2012 Was a great year for “Squeals, Thrills, and Ferris Wheels” with 170,426 visitors coming to enjoy it all. The Mountain Music Stage provided excellent talent as did the Bojangles’ Stage. The astonishing “Tree of Life” was seen near the Davis Event Center surprising lots of folks. Also, the Mooternity Ward, back for its 2nd year, brought forth seven calves being born. The fi rst Sunday set a new record; however, attendance was down slightly due to a rainy first Saturday.

2013 The 20th Anniversary of the NC Mountain State Fair! This year’s theme was “Mountain Fun For Everyone!” Large crowds gathered to see first time performers Sea Lion Splash and Kachunga and the Alligator Show. Ten days of good weather helped set a record attendance of 191,596. There was a cooking contest held each day of the fair, all being sponsored by North Carolina commodities. We hosted a meal and a night at the fair for the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Conference on Tuesday night with each of the 50 states being represented as well as some international representation.

2014 “There’s No Time Like Fair Time” was the theme. This year proved our theme with a lot of rain and cool weather. We never know what we will get come fair time. Our total attendance was 166,316. We had one record day on Wednesday of 14,193. This was also “Ingles Day.” There were 3,438 fairgoers that helped break this record by bringing in over 17,000 pounds of food that was donated to MANNA Food Bank.

2015 “Mountain Fair! Mountain Fun!” The theme proved true with the 2nd highest attendance at 190,327 fairgoers. Cooking contests saw two new competitions: NC Tomato Growers and Mast General Store teamed up with Lodge Mfg. for our first live on-site cook-off using dutch ovens. Wednesday was a record Ingle’s day. The only rain we had was opening day but it held off till the late afternoon hours. Mountain Heritage Circle grew out of Virginia Boone building to fill an outside tent with working crafters.

2016 Brought the passing of Ms. Mary Martin, who, with her daughter Jackie Quinn, had been the Director of Division I since the first NC Mountain State fair in 1994. The fair was “Sew it! Grow it! Show it!” Beautiful weather for the whole fair contributed to a total attendance of 182,683. Competitive entires were up almost 4% across the three divisions. For the first time, livestock youth participated in a Market Broiler Show, which yielded more than 200 processed birds for Manna Food Bank!

2017 Our theme of “Where Farm Meets Fun!” proved to be an appropriate one for this fair. With the assistance of the NC National Guard, we were able to provide 500+ additional parking space on the fairgrounds. Hurricane Irma arrived on the first weekend of the fair leaving us with many uncertainties. Livestock Shows were finished as early as possible on Sunday and the Monday Shows were canceled to keep exhibitors and animals safe. The fair itself was closed on Monday to secure fair grounds with reservations as to which way the storm would go. We did not get hit too bad and were able to reopen on Tuesday afternoon on regular schedule. With all the challenges, we were still able to have a great fair with an attendance of 166,583.

2018 The 25th Anniversary of the fair was one to be remembered for sure. Monies were available to pave a large area; the innermost section of the grounds. The mountain Music Stage hosted Opening Ceremonies and featured an expanded line-up of talented artists. "Miss NC Mountain State Fair" returned with the crowing of Little Miss and Masters. The Entry Catalog, entries, and payment were only accessible on-line, a step toward the future. Hurricane Florence was monitored closely. The decision to close at 5:00pm on the second Saturday and to remain closed on Sunday, was for the safety of everyone. Most livestock shows were canceled for the second weekend except for poultry and Very Special Livestock. Early closing contributed to the decreased attendance of 141,857.

2019 Fair patrons eagerly entered the gates the first week-end with sunny days and warm weather. Clear skies remained all week except for a brief down-pour on the 2nd Saturday, thus allowing 171,391 visitors to "Ag-Knowledge Agriculture" with educational opportunities throughout the fairgrounds. Competitive entries remained strong and the Mountain Music Stage drew crowds to enjoy the talented groups performing nightly.

2020 For the first time ever, the entire N.C. Mountain State Fair was cancelled related to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Commissioner Troxler made the announcement during a press conference on July 7. The Fair had been slated for Sept. 11-20. Approval to hold a junior livestock show while adhering to CDC guidelines was received and the exhibition was called the WNC Youth Livestock Exposition. Record numbers of youth exhibitors showed their beef and dairy cattle, meat and wool sheep, meat and dairy goats, swine, rabbits and poultry.

2021 After the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, "Riding Again" was the perfect theme for the year.125,998 fairgoers were thrilled to return to the Fair as well as the fair vendors, staff, and midway operators. General Exhibits hosted over 3,000 exhibits in addition to the 1,900 plus animals in Livestock. Matt Buchanan retired after 17 years as the Fair Manager.

2022 It's Fair Time" came with the introduction of Sean McKeon as the WNC Ag Center and Mountain State Fair manager. With over 4,400 General and 3,300 Livestock exhibits, fairgoers gained insight into NC agriculture throughout the fairgrounds. Livestock shows highlighted junior and adult competitors with their best animals. Special Cooking Contests brought in over 100 delicious entries. A fabulous midway, featuring exciting rides and delectable fair foods along with clogging, gospel singing, and mountain music were among the offerings that provided a memorable experience for 159,500+ visitors!
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