The North Carolina State Fair is more than good ol' Southern family fun — for some families, it's tradition.
Some of those participating in the annual agricultural competition return yearly, sometimes for several decades. Two people, NC State University junior Catherine Harward and state fair veteran Bryan Blinson, have been a part of the two-week festival since childhood.
Getting started young
Catherine Harward, junior animal science major from Richville, NC, said she has been involved in the fair since she was 10 years old.
She started through the annual NC State Fair agricultural show, a competition in which state-based farmers can enter their best livestock, crops and honey, among other categories, in the hopes of securing a blue ribbon.
Harward began by showing beef cattle, and now — a decade later — she volunteers with the NC State Agronomy Club to educate fair-goers about NC agriculture.
"The whole point (of the fair) is to come and show other people in the industry as well as the general public what you're doing on your farm," she said. "It's kind of like an extracurricular activity for us — some people play sports, our family, we show cattle."
She said she recalls a competition she participated in when she was 14 years old — her first in a new age division. The stars aligned and, even though she was a "newbie," she took home a win. What she remembers most about the experience was not the blue ribbon itself, she said, but the way her competitors celebrated with her, like a family.
"It kind of a big family here — everyone else, even your competitors, get excited when you win. It was an exciting time to win and it was very nice to have that big of family excited for you as well," she said.