LUMBERTON — Cotton candy, blue ribbons and roller coasters will once again take over the Robeson County Fairgrounds as the 67th annual Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair begins its nine-day run on Friday.
Allen Faircloth, the fair’s president, said he hopes attendance will reach 100,000 this year, topping last year’s total of 92,000. He said the fair has “got a lot of old regulars back,” including the Close Encounters of the Exotic Kind animal show, which debuted in 2011 and runs all nine days of the fair.
“They just pack the stands for that every single show,” he said.
The fair opens its gates on Friday at 4:30 p.m. and closes at 11 p.m. Fair-goers can celebrate the fair’s return with a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. and a performance from local band Dark Water Rising at 7:30 p.m.
The fair will run through Oct. 12. General admission costs $6 and children 3 and under get in free.
Faircloth said new attractions include a bread-baking contest on Oct. 9, woodcarving exhibits every day and the national championship races of the American Racing Mower Association, a professional lawnmower racing tour, at 4 p.m. on Oct. 11 and 7 p.m. on Oct. 12.
“They’re a national group that travels around the country,” Faircloth said. “We expect to have about 100 lawnmowers. We’re really excited to have those guys.”
Faircloth said residents can enjoy 36 rides on the midway this year.
Fair-goers can take advantage of several admission deals during the fair, including two-for-one admission with a coupon on Friday. On Oct. 6, rides are free from 1 to 2 p.m., and military personnel with a photo ID and anyone with a current church bulletin get in free.
Children can get free admission with a school coupon on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9. College students with a school ID and seniors age 62 and up also get in free on Oct. 9. Fair-goers can get in free on Oct. 10 by bringing five cans of food for the Robeson County Church and Community Center food pantry.
“We actually charge for just about half of the fair attendance,” Faircloth said, adding that the fair donates $10,000 every year to community projects. “We’re really proud of that.”
In addition to the woodcarving exhibits, the Pleasant Valley Pig Race will be held every day, with three races on weekdays and four on weekends. Other daily events include a petting zoo, antiques display, 4-H shows and The Barn Yard Review, a new children’s show.
“It’s a family-oriented, children-related event teaching kids morals, ethics and drug-free [living],” Faircloth said.
Visitors will have a variety of live entertainment to enjoy. Comedy hypnotist Alan Sands will put people to sleep at least twice a night from Oct. 7 to Oct. 12. The Mt. Elm Remote Flying Demonstration and the “Remembering the 50s” stage show will take place on Oct. 6 at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively, and the Puppetone Rockers will perform three shows a day from Oct. 8 through Oct. 12.
The Carolina Breakers, a new addition to the fair’s musical lineup, will perform as part of Beach Music Night on Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. The Bobby Hill Stage Show will perform at 2 p.m. each day from Oct. 9 through Oct. 12.
One former attraction the fair was unable to reclaim was Rock-It the Robot, which Faircloth said is booked three years in advance.
“It was almost a miracle that we got him [last time],” Faircloth said. “We tried and tried and tried to get him booked back. We wish we were having him back.”
As always, hungry residents can fill up on fair food during the event, including cheeseburgers, pizza, deep-fried Oreos and funnel cakes.
Faircloth called the fair a “major good-value, family-oriented event,” and said it is important to Robeson County residents because it gives them a memorable experience.
“We feel like … this is probably as close to Disney World as some people will ever get,” Faircloth said.
For information or to buy tickets, visit www.robesoncountyfair.com. To view photos and videos from last year’s fair, visit the Robeson County Fair Facebook page, Twitter feed or Pinterest page, or the Fairweather Robeson page on YouTube.