LUMBERTON — Sunshine on Thursday broke through the heavy clouds that had hung for three days over the 66th annual Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair, lighting the way for crowds who piled into the still-saturated fairgrounds and boosting the spirits of fair organizers.
“I’m happy,” said Allen Faircloth, president of the fair, as he looked across a mass of people busy buying buckets of fries, funnel cakes and collard sandwiches at about 6 p.m. “But I’m about to be even happier, because they keep on coming.”
Shaun and Jessica Parker were among Wednesday afternoon’s crowd of 4,600; the two, along with 4-year-old daughter Alexis, stood and talked as they watched Christian, 11, and Nicholas, 12, ride the “YoYo,” a child-sized swing ride.
“We ride by at night and let them see the rides, and it gets them excited,” Jessica said. “… They’re all diabetics and they don’t get to do much.”
About 7,000 people visited the fairgrounds on Wednesday, including the 2,500 senior citizens who got in for free before the fair opened to the public, Faircloth said.
“We had a really good night … it really got busy,” he said. “In fact, we had to open up the back parking lot.”
Faircloth said he was expecting today’s food drive, held to benefit the Robeson County Church and Community Center Food Pantry, to bring in those seeking a free ticket in exchange for five cans of food.
“We’re looking for a good, good number out for that,” he said. “We had about 16,000 pounds last year.”
The Parkers were already planning their next visit, and so was 5-year-old Ma’Leah Smiling, who was busy playfully hitting her 1-year-old brother Samuel in the head with an inflatable hammer. Smiling said her favorite part of the fair, which she visits at least twice each year, is “riding” and “seeing the animals.”
“Of course, we were delighted to have that many folks out,” Faircloth said. “We’re on track, if the weather holds out.”
According to the National Weather Service, daytime skies should remain mostly clear through the end of the week, but Saturday night and Sunday morning could see a 20 percent chance of rain.
The fair’s last day is Sunday.