COVERAccording to the International Association of Fairs and Expos, we have Elkanah Watson a farmer from New England to thank for county fairs. In fact, he is officially known as the “Father of U.S. Agricultural Fairs.” Watson organized the Berkshire Agricultural Society. In 1811, the society hosted what was billed as a cattle show in Pittsfield, Mass. It wasn’t just a show, though. The event included exhibits, but it was also a competition, complete with prize money for the best ox, cattle, swine and sheep exhibits. Watson dedicated himself to helping other communities organize agricultural societies. Within about eight years, most every county in New England had an agricultural society. By 1900, most states had one or more agricultural fairs. Today, there are more than 3,200 fairs in North America every year. Sept. 9-18, Cumberland County celebrates is agricultural roots along with music, games and rides at the 2016 Cumberland County Fair. 

Global Spectrum is partnering with the fair this year and has some exciting changes in store, including an entire new lineup of rides. 

“This year we toured a lot of different ride providers and we ended up going with Big Rock Amusements. They are amazing,” said Crown Complex Director of Marketing Katie Mikos. “All the rides are upgraded and have LED lights — except the carousel, which intentionally has an authentic look and feel. We will have more rides than we have had in the past, like a double sky wheel. The kids’ rides are also really good.” 

Event organizers are so sure that patrons will love the new set up that entry in to the fair is free on opening night. “You will still need to buy a wrist band to ride the rides, but people will be able to look around and buy some food if they want to,” Mikos added.

Like traditional fairs, the Cumberland County Fair showcases the area’s agricultural roots. The petting farm runs throughout the event and offers an opportunity for the public, especially young children who many not be familiar with farm animals, to get up close and personal with them. There are also a variety of livestock and farm animal shows. “All of our livestock elements are always really good,” said Mikos.  “Cumberland County has really good participants that come out each year.” 

Monday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. is the Cumberland County Fair Junior Laying Hen Show featuring hens that are less than 12 months old. There are eight breed classes: American, English, Asiatic, Mediterranean, Continental, Polish, Bantams and No Official Breed Class. There are three Cumberland County Fair Junior Livestock Shows scheduled: Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.; Sept. 15 at 7 p.m.; and Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. The categories include lambs, goats and beef heifers. Sept. 13 is the Cumberland County Fair Youth Livestock Show and Sale. This takes place at 5 p.m.

City slickers can get a peek at the different plants and farm animals that thrive here. Just check out the exhibits. From livestock and poultry to floriculture, agriculture and horticulture, there will be plenty to see.  Other exhibits include baked goods, canned fruits and vegetables as well as jams and jellies. The antique farm equipment exhibit gives fair goers a look at how farming has evolved over time. Area 4-H clubs will have exhibits showing what the participants learned through 4-H.

Another highlight at the fair is the Cumberland County Fair Pageant. This wholesome competition has 12 categories for girls ranging from birth to 40 and up. The boys age groups will depend on the number of entries. The pageant is on Sept. 10. Division I, which includes birth to 6 years starts at 2 p.m. Division II starts at 7 p.m. 

There are several exhibits that run daily through the duration of the fair: local farmers market in the Expo Center; interactive petting farm; Close Encounters of the Exotic Kind Show; Pirates of the Colombian Caribbean Show; Chainsaw Artist Rick Cox; helicopter rides; Up & Coming Weekly Entertainment Stage  featuring continuous local entertainment; Toddler Driving School from 5-8 p.m. weekdays and 3 – 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; Farmer For a Day Expo; pony and camel rides; Eurobungy trampoline; home, craft and agricultural exhibits; and “Goodness  Grows in North Carolina” contest.

While the exhibits are enough to keep most anyone busy, there is much more to see and do while the fair is in town. Every day is packed with shows, music and entertainment along with rides, midway games, and of course, food. Stop by the Up & Coming Weekly stage to see local talent ranging from dance, to bands to cheer teams and more.

The fair opens Sept. 9 at 5 p.m. The entertainment includes Close Encounter of the Exotic Kind Show at 6:30 p.m. and Pirates of the Columbian Caribbean at 6 p.m., 7 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. 

On Saturday, entertainment includes several showings of the Pirates of the Colombian Caribbean Show, the Drew Smith Band, The Fair Queen pageants, racing pigs, Jill Charles and Nobody’s Business and Close Encounter of the Exotic Kind Show.  

Sunday, Sept. 11, the fair opens at 1 p.m. It is military and emergency services appreciation night. Admission is free for all military retired veterans and active duty soldiers and first responders in uniform or with an ID. Regular admission applies for family and friends.  Entertainment includes racing pigs, petting farms, Russ Adair, Close Encounter of the Exotic Kind Show, Pirates of the Colombian Caribbean Show, Rivermist, Born Again Band and Kimberly Simmons. 

Monday, Sept. 12 is Pay One Price Night. $10 includes gate admission and unlimited carnival rides. The fair opens at 5 p.m. 

Students win on Sept. 13 and 14, which are student nights at the fair, which opens at 5 p.m. Students get $2 off admission and $3 off unlimited ride wristbands with a coupon from Kidsville News! 

Make a difference on Sept. 15. Bring three cans of nonperishable items or your 4-H and Future Farmers of America membership card (or wear the T-shirt) and receive $2 off admission. Admission discounts cannot be combined. The canned goods will be donated to Second Harvest Food Bank. The fair opens at 5 p.m. 

On Friday, Sept. 16, the fair’s Senior Expo opens at 1 p.m. and seniors age 50 and older get in free until 5 p.m. early afternoon events include the Shimmy Mob Dance Troupe, Hope Mills line dancers, pianist Bill Luden, the Red Hat Society, the Felton Moore Choir, Roland’s Dance Studio and the 82nd Airborne Chorus. After 5 p.m. guests can enjoy the petting farms, racing pigs, Pirates of the Colombian Caribbean Show, American Idol winner Trent Harmon, the Junior Beef Heifer Show, and Violet Smoke, along with the rides, games and food. “Trent was the winner of the 2016 American Idol Season,” said Mikos. “He’ll be headlining on the Up & Coming Weekly Entertainment stage. I’m really excited about his performance.” 

Saturday, Sept. 17, the gates open at 1 p.m. for a full day of fun. The gates close at 9 p.m. On Sunday, Sept. 18, bring a current church bulletin (one per person) at get $2 off admission between 1 and 3 p.m. Gates open at 1 p.m. and close at 9 p.m.

For more information about the fair, visit http://cumberlandcountyfair.org.

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