LUMBERTON — The 71st annual Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair begins a 10-day run on Thursday, and bargain hunters will have a hard time picking a better day to attend.
Admission is free, courtesy of Sanderson Farms, which will pay the ticket price for all attendees to enjoy food, music, carnival rides, animals and a variety of entertainment. The fair will run through Oct. 7.
After Thursday, general admission tickets are $7. Children under the age of 3 get in free.
Charles Ivey, a longtime resident of West Lumberton and big supporter of the fair, will be honored during the ribbon-cutting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at the McDonald’s Stage. Ivey suffered a heart attack and died during Hurricane Matthew. Members of his family will be there for the ceremony.
Helping kick things off this year will be Miss North Carolina Victoria Huggins. The St. Pauls native will also be the special guest during the ribbon cutting. Other special guests will be North Carolina Commissioner of Labor Cherie Berry and North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler.
The fair is at the Robeson County Fairgrounds on N.C. 41. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, 11 a.m. on the two Saturdays and 1 p.m. on Sunday.
The National Weather Service says Thursday will be sunny with a high temperature around 90. The forecast for Friday, Saturday and Sunday calls for clear to partly cloudy skies and highs in the upper 70s to 80.
Also happening on Thursday is the judging of booths and exhibits. Judging starts at 9 a.m. and is closed to the public. The Judges Luncheon is at noon and is by invitation only.
Friday events include local entertainment featuring the Robeson Rockers from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Local Entertainment Tent and Praise Dancing at the McDonald’s Midway Stage starting at 6:30 p.m.
Wade Shows and Big Rock Amusements are back again to offer what fair organizers say are “the best rides in the industry.” It is the seventh year for the partnership.Big Rock Amusements started setting up rides and Tuesday and each ride will pass a rigorous inspection before the gates open Thursday night.
New this year are a number of entertainment acts, a duck pond in the renovated livestock building, and contests galore. Jordan Davis will be the featured artist on WKML night Friday night. Close Encounters of the Exotic Kind are back after a few years off. This lion and tiger show will amaze fair goers of all ages. Alan Sands, Dakota and Friends, and Rockit the Robot will return again this year at the request of folks who have attended the fair in the past. Then there is the petting zoo and all those fair contests, such as the livestock shows, praise dance, and King Arthur Flour Baking Contest.
Sunday is first-responders day, when those who risked their lives during Hurricane Matthew can get in for free, along with members of our military, with proper ID. Also on Sunday is Univision Day, when gate admission and unlimited ride bands are $20.
On Oct. 5 a donation of five cans will get you free admission to the fair. The canned goods will be donated to local food pantries.
Go to http://www.robesoncountyfair.com to buy e-tickets and find out about daily deals and the Family 4-Pack, which is good for two people over 18 and two under 18. It includes admission and ride bands for just $80. a saving of $36.
There is also an app for this year’s fair on Eventbase. Just download the free app hosting site and search for 2017 Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair. There you will get the latest schedule, entertainment, links to social media updates and can mark your favorite things at the fair and set reminders.