5 generations share love-of-fair in Cabarrus

The love affair with the Cabarrus County Fair stretches five generations in the Bittle family of Mount Pleasant.

Linda Kay Bittle, 64, recalls that her grandmother, Lillie Hatley, enjoyed the fair so much that she went to every senior night until she turned 100, three years before her death.

Bittle’s mother, Carrie Linker, would spend every night she could at the fair, demonstrating quilting to the children who would come by her booth.

In the 25 years Bittle has entered her sewing, decorating, photography and cooking at the fair, she has accumulated three shoeboxes full of prize ribbons.

She’s competing again this year at the fair, which runs Sept. 5-13 at the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center in south Concord.

One of Bittle’s favorite awards was a first-place ribbon for photography in 2000. The winning picture was of her late mother quilting with her niece Faye McRorie, with “A Stitch in Time” hand-written under the picture on the matte board.

In addition to entering her items for judging, Bittle volunteers at the fair. In fact, many of her family members also volunteer.

On Aug. 26, about a dozen volunteers worked at the Cabarrus Arena & Events Center to set up display tables. Bittle, her husband, Junior Bittle, daughter Tina Cline and sister Frances Kanipe worked on getting Gold Hall ready for entries and exhibits.

“I raised my family to love the fair,” said Bittle. Her 19-year-old granddaughter, Lillie Almond, also volunteers and represents the family’s fifth generation to be involved with the fair.

Bittle said she was humbled in 2002 when fair director Mary Ann Cooper asked her to act as superintendent for the new Home Arts department at the 2003 fair. Home Arts included table settings at first but added centerpieces, gift wrap and scrapbooking over the years.

In 2007, after seeing her work, representatives from the state fair asked Bittle to set up a booth at the 2007 fair to show what the state fair would be adding in 2008.

From 2009 to 2012, she was a judge at the state fair for the Home Arts category. When the state fair dates conflicted with Cabarrus County’s, Bittle stayed home, concentrating on her duties with the local fair.

“The fair is a place for family, fun and adventure,” said Bittle. “But the fair is not just all fun and rides. It’s also about agriculture. How we grow and sustain things can be seen here,” she said.

This year’s fair will have a scavenger hunt for children, focusing on agriculture, with clues and answers hidden all over the fairgrounds.

Entering the judged contests is free and open to anyone age 5 or older, but the entries must be dropped off Sept. 2-3. Judging takes place Sept. 4, before the fair opens Sept. 5.

“Anyone from 5 to 105 can enter. The little ones can earn a few dollars and get a green ribbon for their efforts, but most are competing for the bragging rights. Everyone likes seeing a blue ribbon hanging from their entry,” including herself, Bittle said.