N.C. state fair brings new attractions this year

While N.C. State Fair patrons relish their favorite traditions like ham biscuits, livestock shows and the Ferris wheel, they'll find some new offerings, too, when the gates open today.

Seven new thrills will be on the midway, including the Sky Diver, a 1960s-era ride purchased and refurbished by Great American Midway. The company has also added more "family friendly" rides, ones where parents can ride with the tykes to share the fun.

New entries on the deep-fried menu will include deep-fried Kool-Aid, deep-fried brownies, deep-fried bubblegum, deep-fried chicken pot pie and deep-fried candy apples.

Or, fairgoers can get their sweet teeth on with cupcakes shaped like hot dogs, a red velvet funnel cake with cream cheese drizzle, a pumpkin spice funnel cake and a black bean and sweet potato burrito.

Finally, no more hurrying down to the Heritage Circle exhibit to get a good seat for the nightly fireworks. Though you won't need to leave the fairgrounds to see them, the fireworks will be set off daily this year at 9:45 p.m. from a Trinity Road location outside the gates. The new location means cars and people can keep moving while the sky lights up.

Other changes include:

Military personnel now are eligible for a daily discount at the gate, rather than just on Military Appreciation Day. Active duty, reserves, National Guard, retired military and veterans who bring proof of their military service will be admitted to the fairgrounds for $5.

For the first time this year, the fair hosted a commercial butter- and cheese-making competition. The Chapel Hill Creamery stole the cheese show, winning seven gold medals. All of the cheese featured in the contest will be available for purchase at the Dairy Artisan Tent.

A new "Cultivate a Career" exhibit hopes to inspire folks to consider jobs in agriculture. Fairgoers can participate in an interactive, career-personality scavenger hunt, get career advice from counselors and business representatives, and "drive" a high-tech tractor in a simulation game. That exhibit is located near Gate 12.

The fair also has added a new pedestrian-friendly sidewalk along Hillsborough Street, and a new station for wheelchairs and strollers inside Gate 1.