Food & Drink

Why you can’t get your Mt. Olive pickle fix at this year’s NC State Fair

Mt. Olive Pickles have been a long-time fixture at the North Carolina State Fair, but that will change this year.
Mt. Olive Pickles have been a long-time fixture at the North Carolina State Fair, but that will change this year.

The Mt. Olive Pickles Company has been around for 91 years, and for more than 60 of those years, it’s had a booth at the North Carolina State Fair. But not this year.

The eastern North Carolina company, whose pale green lids and sometimes giant jars are regionally synonymous with pickles themselves, announced on its website that the company – and its pickles – wouldn’t be at this year’s fair. Mt. Olive missed last year’s fair as well, but that was because of Hurricane Matthew, whose record flooding hit the company’s Wayne County particularly hard.

This year, though, Mt. Olive attributes its absence to production demands, which it says have never been greater.

“We have been fortunate in that our sales have grown significantly over time, and that means our production demands have increased,” the company’s public relations director said in a release. “In recent years we have been challenged by the logistics of pulling daily crews of employees and supervisors away from the plant to work at the State Fair for 11 days straight.”

The N&O reviewed the 2017 State Fair food lineup ahead of North Carolina's 150th fair.

In past decades, Williams said, when Mt. Olive’s pickles were made only from North Carolina cucumbers grown and then picked from May until July, production pressures had calmed down by the time of the October fair. Now the company sources its cucumbers from several states and its most intense production phase has grown from six weeks to six months.

“This decision comes with great regret, as our presence at the State Fair has been a tradition for our employees and for fairgoers for a long, long time,” Williams said.

Mt. Olive’s booth became a fixture of the State Fair, a predictable and expected presence amidst an event often growing and changing. The booth sold individual pickles, handed out stickers and held games where people could guess how many pickles came in a 2.5-gallon jar.

Fair organizers said they’re among those missing Mt. Olive at this year’s fair.

“We would have liked to have them be a part of this year’s fair,” said Wes Wyatt, North Carolina State Fair manager. Wyatt added that if they decide to come back in the future, they’ll be welcomed back and can return to their same spot in the fairgrounds.

The N.C. State Fair schedule is loaded with livestock competitions. Farmers from across NC prepared their animals on the fair's opening day for a stay at the fairgrounds and a chance at a blue ribbon.

Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer