Haley Hargus of Henderson waits all year for the opening of the N.C. State Fair. This year, she had to wait one more day while Hurricane Michael blew through North Carolina.
But Friday morning, Hargus was up with the cows and ready to show her North Carolina-born crossbred steer, 1,405-pound Comanche, on the fair’s delayed opening day.
“I was a little bummed out,” when opening day had to be put off because of bad weather, said Hargus, 15, who loves the energy and excitement of the kickoff. “it’s always so wide open. But it’s here now.”
Hargus and her helper, Brent Yarski, were getting Comanche ready for a morning show. He had been bathed and blown-dry, and Yarski was spraying and combing Comanche’s jet-black hair.
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All over the livestock building, owners were getting their animals ready. Those who were scheduled to show their animals Thursday, when the fairgrounds were closed for heavy wind and rain, were learning when they would be rescheduled to show.
Thousands of people streamed through the gates by midday to enjoy once-a-year pleasures: stomach-scrambling rides, deep-fried favorite foods, close encounters with farm animals.
Immediately, there was a line to pay $3 to milk a cow. And while church-booth ham biscuits were a popular breakfast item, so were foot-long hot dogs.
Hurricane Michael’s visit on Thursday forced schools to close on Friday, turning it into a State Fair holiday for families.
Workers prepped food and filled drink coolers with ice.
“I’m chopping broccoli,” said Ervin Herschel, in the back of Royer’s Fry Hop. A co-worker, Kevin Owens, was stirring batter with an attachment on an electric drill. Both men are from Pennsylvania and said they spent their unexpected day in their camper, riding out the storm.
At the Cheesesteak Factory, Dylan Autef’s workers got ready to start cooking burgers, sausage dogs and french fries. Autef, from South Africa, guessed he lost a couple thousand dollars because he couldn’t open on Thursday as planned, though he was able to catch up on some sleep.
With blue skies Friday morning and a cool breeze that already was picking up the scent of hot grease, Autef was hopeful that he could make up the lost income over the run of the fair.
“This is a money-making spot,” he said of the fair, one of dozens of events where he sets up his booth each year. “Closing down sets us back.”
State Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Andrea Ashby said Michael, a tropical storm by the time it reached Raleigh, did minor damage as it came through and caused one injury. A fair worker was slightly hurt when a tree fell on his truck and trailer, with him inside.
“It blew stuff around generally,” Ashby said, damaging one tent belonging to the fair and another owned by a vendor who sells fried candy bars.
Ashby said “a few” rides had to be partially disassembled ahead of the storm to prevent wind damage. Those were being put back up on Friday and would be re-inspected. Several food booths also awaited inspection before they could open, she said.
The fair’s opening ceremony started at 11 a.m. The fair runs through Oct. 21.