Deep-fried Kool-Aid (how do they do that, anyway?) isn’t for everyone. But if you can’t find something to enjoy at the Mountain State Fair, you just might be a hopeless city slicker.
Just teasing. We’re confident that if you’re in Western N.C., either as a visitor or a resident, then you love the mountains. And here’s something about our annual agricultural fair that’s rarely mentioned in press releases: the stunning view from the fairgrounds, located at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher. A panoramic stretch of the Blue Ridge frames the annual ten-day event. Go at sunset and take a photo from the top of the hill that leads to the livestock barns, and you’ll have something worthwhile to frame – or at least put on Facebook.
The fair offers every expected attraction: classic and new midway rides, 4-H competitions, bake-offs, fiber-art displays, and all the nostalgia-fueled carnival games, including Skeeball, “Fool the Guesser,” and that one that involves a basketball, a trick hoop, and an impossibly unattainable grand prize: usually a stuffed animal the size of Luxembourg.
Fair food abounds, including almost anything that can be speared on a stick, and favorite guilty-pleasure treats made even more scandalous by a dip in the vat (e.g. deep-fried Snickers, deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried cheesecake, and the above-mentioned deep-fried Kool-Aid, which we’ve never been brave enough to try). We suggest the “Apple Dumplins & Such” booth, which offers slightly saner treats that definitely qualify as down-home, including pinto beans and onions and a delightful baked apple cobbler.
Given WNC’s deep musical heritage, the live acts staged throughout the ten days add a significant cultural dimension to the event. Musical alumni include bluegrass stars Steep Canyon Rangers of Brevard, who shared the stage with the late Earl Scruggs in 2003; now they tour the world with another legend, comedian/banjo player Steve Martin. Expect country, clogging, mountain music, and several competitions, including a gospel contest we write about in this month’s print edition of Bold Life.
With all the focus on locally grown food and DIY in recent years, it’s important to remember that the Fair’s been on trend for years. For decades. Local honey, local produce, locally crafted quilts: it’s all here. One noted fair attraction is Brad Matchett, who hosts an act he calls “Agricadabra,” referencing farm life with various sleight-of-hand tricks.
In a way, though, it’s all magic.
Mountain State Fair, Sept. 11-20. www.wncagcenter.org