LUMBERTON — The Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair is as old as Tide detergent, the CIA and bikinis.
The fair returns on Thursday for its 70th year for a 10-day run.
“It is a milestone to have a county fair survive 70 years, much less grow like ours has,” said Allen Faircloth, president of the fair. “It is a testament to the volunteers and their families who sacrifice their time, talents and dedication over the years. It is a testament to our patrons who come out and enjoy the rides, entertainment, and exhibits that we offer. We could not do it without the farmers, bakers, and talented folks who enter their exhibits looking to be the blue-ribbon winner. It takes a lot of folks to make a successful fair, so we have a lot of folks we want to celebrate with.”
There’s a slight chance of rain on Opening Day, but forecasts are currently calling for sunny skies through the weekend. Several days of last year’s fair were rained out.
On Thursday, a ribbon cutting, which hasn’t been held in several years, will officially open the fair at 4:30 p.m, with state and local officials slated to attend.
The Pleasant Valley Petting Zoo will be open from 4:30 to 11 p.m., with first pig races at 6 and 7:30 p.m. The Agri Puppets, new to the fair this year, will perform family-friendly shows at 6:30 and 8 p.m. Returning favorite comedy hypnotist Alan Sands will take the stage at 7:30 and 9 p.m. All of those activities will continue throughout the fair.
On Friday, the fair is open to the public from 4:30 p.m. to midnight. In addition to Thursday’s acts, local entertainment will take the stage from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Gates open on Saturday at 11 a.m. That day’s highlights include a pumpkin-decorating contest from 1 to 3 p.m.; a lawn and garden tractor pull at 1 p.m.; the Mountaire Chickin’ Pickin’ contest at 2 p.m.; a basketball tournament at 3 p.m.; a special needs pageant at 6 p.m.; and a performance by singer Brittany McLamb at 7 p.m. Gates close at midnight.
On Sunday, gates open at 1 p.m. with free amusement rides until 2 p.m. Sunday is also Military Appreciation Day, with free admission for attendees with a military ID, and Univision Family Day, with $20 admission including rides and entertainment. Local entertainment, the Mt. Elim Remote Flying Club and a powwow all begin at 2 p.m. Gates close at 8 p.m.
The fair is open from 4:30 to 11 p.m. Monday. A new act will make appearances at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. — Dakota & Friends, a traveling show of dinosaur puppets.
Tuesday is Special Needs Children day, by invitation only, and Children School Day, with free admission with a school coupon. Among other attractions, Rockit the Robot will make appearances at 7 and 9 p.m. Gates open at 4:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 is Senior Citizen Day with free admission for fair-goers 62 and older; Children School Day, with free admission with a school coupon; and College Day, with free admission with a current year college ID. Gates open at 4:30 p.m., but seniors can arrive at 2 p.m. The King Arthur Flour Baking Competition begins at 4:30 p.m., with Beach Music Night and the chain-saw cutting contest at 7 p.m.
On Oct. 6, gates open at 4 p.m., with free admission with a donation of five cans of food for the Robeson County Church and Community Center. The FFA truck and tractor driving contest begins at 4 p.m. and there will be a gospel singing at 7 p.m.
Gates are open 4:30 p.m. to midnight on Oct. 7, with regular acts, including hypnotist Alan Sands, Dakota & Friends, Rockit the Robot and the Hansen Spectacular Circus.
The final day of the fair, Oct. 8, begins at 11 a.m. Among the highlights are the 21st annual Chicken Bog Cook-off from noon to 6 p.m.; the 38th annual Diaper Derby at 3 p.m.; pedal tractor drag racing at 4 p.m.; and the “U” Got Talent! Show at 7 p.m.
“There is a little something for everyone in this year’s entertainment lineup,” said President Emeritus Coble Wilson. “From educational to silly, everything will strike a chord of family fun for our patrons which is what we want.”
Fair-goers will need to take a detour this year because of a culvert replacement on N.C. 41 near Marion Road.
Traffic coming from points east should follow the detour signs route along N.C. 72 to West Fifth Street to Starlite Drive to N.C. 41, according to NCDOT. Traffic coming from points north and west of Lumberton should take Exit 17 at Interstate 95, turn right on West Fifth Street, then follow the detour signs to Starlite Drive.
For a full schedule of events, competitions, and entertainment, visit robesoncountyfair.com. The fairgrounds are located at 3750 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Lumberton.
Sarah Willets can be reached at 910-816-1974 or on Twitter @Sarah_Willets.