Opinion: CJ Opinion

The state fair is back, and there’s nothing Cooper can do to stop it

The N.C. State Fair has returned. (Photo by Lisa Snedeker)
The N.C. State Fair has returned. (Photo by Lisa Snedeker)

The N.C. State Fair, after a year off because of COVID, is back, and it’s spectacular. Glorious weather and, from my point of view, an almost perfect event.

State Agriculture Commission Steve Troxler, fair Manager G. Kent Yelverton, and their staffs deserve tons of credit.

Troxler, in canceling the fair last year, showed the type of genuine emotion so rare for elected officials. 

“We have hoped, we have prayed, and we have thought and thought and thought but at the end of the day, it’s the only logical decision that we could make,” Troxler said July 29 of last year, in an elegant yet strikingly poignant piece by former Carolina Journal writer Kari Travis.

The event, which would’ve spanned Oct. 15-25, 2020, has drawn 18 million attendees over the past decade, Travis wrote. “For many, its cancellation is understandable, but it remains a vast disappointment. The last time North Carolina called off its fair was World War II.”   

The move to cancel the fair last year hurt Troxler. It hurt Kari and the people she interviewed. A cruel blow, exacerbated by the governor’s tyrannical orders, which go agonizingly on. The General Assembly is trying to fix this mess, but Gov. Roy Cooper wields his veto pen against Republican measures much like Steelers’ fans wave their Terrible Towels.

“We have now been under the governor’s self-declared state of emergency for over 580 days — with no agreement, oversight or input from the Council of State or the General Assembly,” House Majority Leader John Bell, R-Wayne, said in a statement after a bill to rein in a governor’s power cleared the legislature Wednesday, Oct. 20. 

“No one person, regardless of party, should have the unilateral authority to shut down the state for an indefinite amount of time. This legislation is not about politics or what the governor has or has not done. It is about clarifying the law to restore checks and balances.”

Amen.

Nevertheless, the leftist media won’t stop. With the incessant questions and the questioning.

Is it safe to attend? But, wait, numbers are down. Why? Are vaccinations required? 

Dispensing with literary formalities, shut up already! By the way, I didn’t see any media members complaining as they wolfed down those free atomic tots and banana pudding.

Almost 94,000 people visited the fair the first Sunday, and that’s a lot, considering the constant nagging from the government and media. Numbers are steady. I loathe the phrase “fake news,” but some reports and so-called reporters come perilously close to just that. 

“It has been a good fair, with lots of smiling faces and laughter around the grounds, which is very welcomed,” fair spokeswoman Andrea E. Ashby told CJ. “Attendance has steadily built throughout the run, and we are pleased with the numbers. Walk-up sales have been strong each day, which we think is because people had been waiting to make a day-of decision to come out to the fairgrounds.”

She said record numbers were neither expected nor a goal.

“We are grateful to open the gates and welcome fairgoers in,” she said. “We measure success in many ways, and seeing happy faces is one of them.”

I saw few masks covering those happy faces, and the absence of these nonsensical COVID restrictions — I’m looking at you, Raleigh, and Cary, among others — are much appreciated. Travis last year talked about lost experiences, relationships severed, at least for the moment. Experiences, however, that are now reborn, relationships now renewed.

As I walked from the lots surrounding the Raleigh arenas, which is the best place to park for the fair, I noticed something else. Something filthy, disgusting. Dozens of masks, strewn along the streets and the sideways. Dirty trash, lost, discarded, forgotten. Poetic symbolism, worthy of Austen, Fitzgerald, or Steinbeck.

Travis’s story last year was sad, foreboding. She talked about leaving the barren grounds on that hot August day of a year ensconced in depressive gray.

“It’s a long walk back, and I’m suddenly wishing for a state fair lemonade, full of fresh-squeezed juice and gritty sugar,” she wrote then. 

“Guess I’ll have to wait.”  

That wait is over now. The sun is bright, as is, finally, hope, thanks largely to the efforts of Troxler and fair organizers. Despite the fear-mongering and the naysayers. 

Jennifer Wood Hopp, a human resources director from Fuquay-Varina, attended the fair about three times every year, until 2020. “I was really sad, she told Travis, “because to me it puts a cherry on the dumpster fire of this year.” 

“It broke my heart.” 

She was far from alone. I suggest that Cooper, instead of reaching for that toxic veto pen, grab a giant turkey leg instead.