Agricultural fairs have existed in North Carolina since the 1700s. The earliest fairs provided a place for local farmers and tradespeople to sell their goods, but were quite modest in size. By the 1800s fairs became organized events, designed to educate farmers about modern agricultural and livestock practices. Contests for the best crops, livestock, and crafts still persist but many fairs now include competitions for twenty-first century skills such as web design and beer brewing.
Early fairs provided welcome social interaction and entertainment for rural families, as modern fairs do for fairgoers today. By the late 1800s carnival-like midways with sideshows and amusement rides became a mainstay of the fair, with midway entertainments evolving to keep up with the changing tastes and expectations of audiences.
Today, there are over forty-five agricultural fairs held in North Carolina each year. This exhibition examined the history of the fair as a social institution with enduring popularity.
For more details, visit the UNC Library News and Events blog.