NC State Fair finishes with lowest attendance since 2008 — but ‘absolutely worth it’

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The NC State Fair finished with its lowest attendance total in more than a decade, though organizers celebrated the numbers as higher-than-expected for the lingering pandemic.

With preliminary totals tallied through Sunday, the fair drew 821,463 people, down 12% from 2019 — its last year before COVID-19.

Though the Raleigh fair shut its gates completely in 2020, before anyone in the state had been vaccinated, its attendance this year dropped lower than any year since 2008, when 765,067 people came.

“The 2021 State Fair was absolutely wonderful and exceeded expectations,” NC Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a news release.

“It took a lot of hard work by a lot of people to put this on, but it was absolutely worth it. Seeing people enjoying themselves and experiencing a bit of normalcy was a great feeling.”

Unlike some states, North Carolina opted against requiring masks or vaccinations for fair-goers this year, though it urged both as COVID-19 precautions.

As of early last week, Wake County announced it had vaccinated nearly 100 people at the fairgrounds.

Fair officials also touted the 314,000 pounds of canned goods donated during Smithfield Foods Hunger Relief Day and its first accessAbility Day.

Monster-sized produce also made the list of memorable 2021 moments: both pumpkins and watermelons set new site records with 1,965.5 pounds for the pumpkin and 341 pounds for the watermelon.

Saturday saw the highest attendance with 126,715 and Sunday came second with 102,135 — the only days the fair reached six-figure attendance.

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