LUMBERTON — Organizers of the 66th annual Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair are hoping to break last year’s record attendance of 92,000 with a nine-day event they say is the “biggest ever.”
“We’ve added additional rides, we’ve added some additional shows, we’ve expanded the monster truck show to two shows,” said Allen Faircloth, fair president. “We’ve got three rides coming in that have never been in North Carolina before.”
Fair gates will swing open at 4 p.m. on Friday and close at 10 p.m. On Saturday, the fair is open to the public from 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday’s events will begin at 1 p.m. Regular admission is $6.
The weather forecast for Friday is for clear skies, but a chance of thunderstorms arrives Saturday and continues for several days.
This year’s midway will feature for the first time the Inverter, which flips 24 riders seated in rows on a bench-style seat upside down as a hydraulic arm swings the seat back and forth; the Vertigo, which raises riders sitting in swings high on a spinning central pole; and the Enterprise, in which riders are seated in gondolas arranged in a circle on a hydraulic arm that lifts and tilts the frame as the cars spin.
“We’ve got some of the biggest rides we’ve ever had on out fairground,” said Coble Wilson Jr., past fair president and event organizer. “And people in Robeson County really do love to ride rides.”
On Friday, thrill-seekers can take a spin on a carnival ride while speed-seekers can get their kicks at the Pleasant Valley pig race. The Bobby Hill Stage Show and the Caboodle Stoppers, a “wacky wild-West show,” will both be taking the stage before the official opening ceremony and ribbon cutting at 5 p.m.
Also on Friday, the puppettone rockers will be rolling around the grounds, and WKML will be broadcasting live while lions and tigers jump through hoops at the nearby “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
Daily events at this year’s fair include: an antique tractor display; pony rides; horticultural and art exhibits; antiques; carnival rides; and a petting zoo. Actors portraying the characters Barney and Gomer from “The Andy Griffith Show” will meander around the fairgrounds Monday through Thursday, and comedy hypnotist Alan Sands will be putting willing participants to sleep at least twice a night from Monday to Oct. 6.
“We’ve spent a lot of money out here for new lighting in the grandstand area and a complete new layout of the fairground, so it will look different,” Wilson said. “We have more vendors then we’ve ever had before … we’ll have the biggest fair we’ve ever had.”
Wine judging will take place at noon on Sunday, and radio station Rock 103 will be broadcasting from 2 to 4 p.m. A monster truck show will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. and roar to life again at 7:30 p.m. A goat show will begin at 6 p.m.; the Jr. and Little Miss Robeson County Fair pageants will begin at 6:30 p.m. and Bobby Hill will take the stage at 7 p.m.
On Sunday, rides will be free from 1 to 2 p.m. and members of the military will get in for free until the fair closes at 8 p.m. A BB&T-sponsored “gospel on the grounds” show will be held from 2 to 7 p.m. and the Mt. Elim Remote Flying Club will hold a demonstration from 2 to 5 p.m.
A cheerleading contest will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, special organization recognition day. Bobby Hill will perform at 7:30 p.m., and 4-H youth rabbit show and a show by the Caboodle Stoppers will each begin at 7 p.m.
On Tuesday, school-aged children can get in for free with a school coupon and Fairweather, the fair mascot, will make an appearance. Fifth- and sixth-grade children will compete in a cheerleading contest at 6:30 p.m. and hog shows will start at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.
On Wednesday, which is Senior Citizen Day, those 62 years old and older can get into the fair for free; a school coupon will allow children through the gates at no charge; and students with a current college ID can also see the fair without opening their wallets. Children’s barn yard tours will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Jim Quick and the Coastline Band are set to perform their shagadelic tunes at 7 p.m. Local lumberjacks will ready their saws for the chain-saw cutting contest at 7 p.m.; and local ladies will strut their stuff in Kaiser-Roth’s best legs competition at 8 p.m.
Those donating five cans of food will get in for free on Oct. 4. The FFA truck and tractor driving contest will take place from 4 to 6 p.m.; the Old Path Quartet will perform gospel songs at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.; and a drum line competition will be featured on the Grand Strand at 7:30 p.m. On Oct. 5, radio station Foxy 99 will be broadcasting live from 7 to 10 p.m.; the Lumber River Garden Tractor Pull will begin at 6 p.m. and the Caboodle Stoppers will perform at 6, 7 and 8 p.m.
Competition for at the 18th annual Chicken Bog cook off will heat up on Oct. 6 from noon to 6 p.m. A youth steak-cooking competition will start at 2 p.m.; the 36th-annual Diaper Derby will begin at 3 p.m.; and the Old County Fair Afternoon and pedal tractor drag racing will each start at 4 p.m. and last until 5. The Caboodle Stoppers will perform at 2, 5 and 8 p.m. and a steer and heifer show will start at 2 p.m. A demolition derby will crash into the fair’s arena at 7 p.m.; “U” got talent, the fair’s last scheduled event, will begin at 7:30 p.m. and the fairgrounds will close at midnight for the last time this year.
“I guarantee if they come one day, they’ll want to come back the next because they didn’t get to see it all,” Wilson said.