Everybody at the Dixie Classic Fair in Winston Salem, North Carolina this year was thinking about last year's weather.
In 2012, rain poured down for six solid days of the 10-day fair, said fair director David Sparks, and the fair, owned by the city of Winston Salem, barely met expenses. This year, the fair was blessed with only one day of rain. There were a couple of days of fine mist, but you can live with that, Sparks said. And the people came to North Carolina's second largest fair.
In fact, attendance was up by 12.74 percent over last year. Sparks said that 320,846 people streamed through the gates from October 4 through Oct. 13.
Fair admission was $8 for adults and jumped by only $1 - to 9 - for weekends. Children entered the gates for $4.
Three major concerts in the grandstand were included in the admission price, said Sparks. One of the most popular was on Wednesday night, Oct. 9. Contemporary Christian duo Brandon Heath and Mandisa packed the house. The singers drew a crowd of over 6,400 people, Sparks said. The grandstand was only built to accommodate 5,000 people.
"That means there was standing room only for 1,400 people," he said. "They all loved it."
The concert was generously promoted by a local Christian radio station that brought out church youth groups, which meet on Wednesday nights, to hear the popular singers.
Dustin Lynch performed on Monday, Oct. 7. The young country and western signer is known for his recordings: She Cranks My Tractor, Cowboys and Angels and Wild in Your Smile. The country and western group Love and Theft appeared on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Love and Theft, made up of Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson, first released Runaway, which reached the Top 10 on Billboard's Hottest Country Songs. Angel Eyes was their first number one single.
"Brandon Heath and Mandisa set a grandstand attendance record," said Sparks.
All grandstand concerts were free with the price of gate admission.
The midway was run by James E. Strates Shows, of Orlando, Florida. The show travels as a railroad carnival, transporting personnel and equipment on 61 railcars and 34 trucks. About 400 families and employees travel on the railroad cars.
Strates has been with the Dixie Classic Fair since 1964, said Sparks. Last year, the company brought a total of four new rides. This year, there were 70 rides in all, including kiddieland rides. Younger fairgoers got an all-day wristband for $10, excluding only the pony rides.
There was an increase on the midway over last year's gross. Rides include the Giant Dutch Wheel, Cliffhanger, Construction Zone, Dinosaur, Double Carousel, Enterprise, Family Swinger, Fire Chief, Red Baron, Starship 2000, Tilt-A-Whirl, Top Spin, Wave Swinger, Zipper, and Zyklon.
Lowe's Foods Day, held on Wednesday, Oct. 9, was a huge event for local charities. People attending the fair were asked to bring five cans or boxes of food for free admission. More than 65,000 food items were collected, said Sparks.
The collections went to Crisis Control Food Pantry in Winston Salem. The charity provides not only food but prescription drugs and financial help with housing and utilities.
"I can't tell you how appreciative they are for what we do for them," said Sparks. "They're telling us that we've probably stocked them for six months."
There were plenty of free days to attract people to the fair. Unlimited ride Wristband days were held on four days. There was a school day, senior citizens day and veterans' day. Either discounted or free admission was offered with proper identification.
There were, of course, plenty of animals to see at the fair. FFA and 4H competitions were held as has always been the tradition. There were swine, cattle, goats, horses and various awards for top farm animals, said Sparks.
The smaller animals weren't quite as up close and personal as they have been in previous years, said Sparks. There was no touching of the animals in the petting zoo, for example.
"That was kind of a shame, and I think the kids missed it," said Sparks. "But we have to do what we've told to do because of health concerns."
The Dixie Classic Fair was advertised through television and newspapers, magazines, Facebook, Twitter, , said Sparks. The fair had an advertising budget of about $195,000.
The fair was donated to the city of Winston Salem in 1969 by the Winston-Salem Foundation. It is typically attended by about 325,000 visitors.
The Dixie Classic Fair is fairly famous for its food, Sparks said. This year, you could have gotten almost anything fried, from fried Reese's cups to fried Milky Ways and fried alligator.
Add to that swimming and racing pigs, a demolition derby, a trained elephant act, nightly fireworks displays, and a chain saw artist who turned blocks of wood or logs into pieces of art.
One of the most popular and endearing features of the fair was Yesterday Village, a collection of 19 log structures that were built in the 1800s. The collection included a one-room church, general store/post office, a two-story log home and several other historic buildings.
The Yesterday Village also included an antique equipment display, the Dog Trot Museum, a blacksmith demonstration, bluegrass music by Jeff Foxall, Craig Smith, Scott Huffman and Robert Sprye. There were also decorated wreaths and Christmas trees in the village display, an old tobacco barn, a glass blower, a bakery with giant, homemade eclairs, loom demonstrations, special foods contests, leatherworks and Indian crafts, wine displays and wine tasting in the wine pavilion.
The 2014 Dixie Classic Fair will be held from October 3 through October 12.