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A look inside the tobacco barn at the State Fair.

A look inside the tobacco barn at the State Fair.

Late last week, teams of three squared off in what has become an annual State Fair tradition—Duke Homestead’s Tobacco Looping Contest.

The contest highlights what was once a common chore on farms across North Carolina: farmers tied tobacco onto sticks and loaded them into barns, where the crop was cured.  The practice largely fell by the wayside in the mid-20th century as technology improved and tobacco began to be cured in a bulk barn in large containers.

Things to See and Do This Year

The contest also kicks off a host of activities that we’re proud to present at the fair to help you explore our state’s history and heritage. Here are three things to be sure you see on your visit to the fair this year:

  • Explore a working tobacco barn in the Heritage Circle area, managed by Duke Homestead and the N.C. Tobacco Growers Association. You can take a peek at the curing process if you visit during the week, or see the finished product if you stop by on the weekend.
A visitor learns about historic military uniforms after our 2014 revue.

A visitor learns about historic military uniforms after our 2014 revue.

  • Discover the Tar Heel State’s connections to World War I at an exhibit we’ve created in the north lobby of Dorton Arena. You’ll see how the fairgrounds were used a training center and learn more about the how the Great War impacted North Carolina.
  • See interpreters portraying soldiers from throughout American history during the Military Appreciation Parade and our 2nd annual historical uniform revue at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively, Wednesday.
  • Experience a mock tobacco auction in the Heritage Circle area Friday at 2 p.m. Though now largely replaced by contracts between tobacco companies and farmers, tobacco auctions were once the center of the economic and social life of many rural North Carolina communities.

A horticultural exhibit at the 1910 State Fair featuring apples
and other fruit. Image from the State Library.

Explore State Fair History from the Comfort of Your Home

Even if you’re not a regular to the N.C. State Fair, you can’t argue that the annual event is part of our state’ rich culture and that it has a deep history. To commemorate those deep roots and help you explore them, the State Archives and State Library offer several great resources:

  • Blue Ribbon Memories: Your History of the N.C. State Fair, is an online exhibit that showcases photographs, premium lists, newspapers clippings and other materials available on our State Fair Ephemera Digital Collection and allows fairgoers to share memories of their own State Fair experiences.
  • Two videos from the State Archives, posted here and here, show the fair as visitors saw it in the 1940s and 1960s, respectively.

Happy exploring! We hope to see you out there at this great North Carolina tradition.

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