LUMBERTON — As the sun set Saturday on the first day of the Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair, the lines at the rides got longer, and the tables at the food court got busier.
Fair managers are hopeful for a good attendance at the Hurricane Florence-shortened fair, and Saturday looked promising. The fair will run from Saturday to Saturday.
“We are hoping for thousands tonight,” said Coble Wilson Jr., a member of the fair’s board of directors. “Because school is canceled next week, we want to make sure people to know that school kids are admitted free on Tuesday and Wednesday, and rides are $2 off.”
Every person at the fair this weekend is a Hurricane Florence survivor, fair leaders say. They came to have fun under the lights of the midway and to forget.
“The fair is something to look forward to,” said Houston Smith, who was in line at the gate with Lindsay Ivey.
“Especially after the hurricane,” Ivey said. “We got lucky, but I feel bad for the people who rebuilt and got flooded again.”
By 6:30 p.m., the midway was filling up as the helicopter ride circled above the grounds, and music from a kids show blasted away.
It was dinner hour and food was on the menu for Curtis Murphy, of Rowland, who had a plateful of ribs in front of him.
“Good ribs,” he said. “I had some flood damage, but I saved enough to come to the fair.”
Food comes in all forms at the fair from deep-fried pickles to hamburgers and hot dogs. Collard sandwiches, which locals say were invented as fair food in Robeson County, were plentiful.
Conventional wisdom says older people come for the food and younger people for the rides. Then, there was Joshton Scott, age 2.
“I love the fair, and I have come every year since I was a little girl,” said Erica Locklear, who with Adrian Blanks, took Joshton to his first fair.
“This is his first fair and this is his first ride,” Locklear said.
The couple had picked a classic, choosing the merry-go-round. There were a few frightful moments, but Blanks was there to keep Joshton’s nerves steady.
Jill Davis was manning the deep fryer, cooking a style of food that has become a fair classic.
“We’ll deep-fry anything — bananas, banana pudding, brownies, Snickers — you name it,” she said.
Herb Gleason and Dianna Whifton came from Harnett County to the fair. They weren’t disappointed as Herb chowed down on a smoked turkey leg with a side of corn on the cob.
“We heard about it on the radio,” Whifton said. “We’re a little old for the rides, but the food is great.”
The couple, who had just moved from Florida, were enjoying watching the people of Robeson County.
“I just saw a teenager put trash in a trash can,” Gleason said. “You don’t see that everywhere.”
Moving to the midway, the screams got louder approaching the Ring of Fire, which is a 360-degree roller coaster that leaves riders suspended upside down.
Shay Graham, 14, of Rowland, did not seem impressed with Ring of Fire. He was with two friends.
“Zippo is the scariest ride,” Graham said.
He was right, more screams per second could be heard coming from Zippo.
Graham said there were “plenty of girls” Saturday, but he and his friends acted as if they weren’t interested.
Jaylan Hunt, 14, a girl from Pembroke, said the same thing about the boys at the fair. Evidently, it is the rides, and only the rides that brings teens in droves to the fair.
Hunt agreed: “We’re here to ride the rides and hang out with friends.”
Scott Bigelow can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.