David Rice of the Journal Raleigh Bureau reports that each October, approximately 800,000 people visit the North Carolina State Fair, making it the state’s single biggest event.
During the fair, at least 2,000 workers, 175 food stands, 108 rides and 10 nights’ worth of entertainers are deployed on the 344-acre grounds. They even have their own police force to deal with crowds.
Wesley Wyatt, who has been the Fairgrounds’ manager since 1997, likens the running of the State Fair to the running a municipality. Rides must clear safety inspections, charitable organizations must be looked after, and even vendors with expecting mothers get a security guard checking in on them. And last year’s E.coli outbreak has resulted in the addition of more handwashing stations and fencing.
The fair gets no money from the General Assembly and is self-sustaining, generating $9 million a year in revenue and $5 million in expenses.
The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that the 10-day fair fills almost 2,200 hotel rooms, attracts 663,000 day visitors, creating a total economic impact of more than $17 million a year.
Although the State Fair is the biggest draw, the Fairgrounds are open for business every day of the year except Christmas – with flea markets every weekend and more than 500 nonfair events a year. They will also be hosting arena football games.