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The lights of a previous Stanly County Fair.

Fair fuels old-fashioned fun

Old-fashioned fun never goes out of style. Or at least not at the Stanly County fairgrounds.

Starting Tuesday, American Legion Post 76 will throw open the gates for the annual Stanly County Fair and all the delights of yesteryear.

“We really do try to keep it as old-fashioned as we can,” said Doug Petersen, one of the Post 76 members organizing the event.

While other fairs may focus on new attractions or big entertainment, he detailed, Post 76 focuses on traditional events like farming contests and barrel racing.

“Family, freedom and farming, that’s what we go for,” Petersen said.

And it seems to be working.

Now in it’s 84th year, the fair has been going longer than most of the Post 76 members have been alive.

Rides are among the regular activities at the Stanly County Fair.

And despite being run by a volunteers rather than professional fair workers, it attracts about 10,000-12,000 people a year. In fact, preliminary ticket sales indicate that 2018 may be the biggest year yet, VFW members noted.

“Maybe we could hire people to help, but we’re trying to continue a tradition,” Petersen said, noting that only the fair rides and some stage acts are put on by professionals. “We want it to be a true community affair.”

In fact, even the fair’s new events will add to that old-fashioned theme.

Among those new acts, the Sweet Potato Pie Band will bring the traditional sounds of bluegrass to the fairgrounds on Wednesday. Hogway Speedway will revive the fair’s pig racing history. “Maw” Hutto, a folk singer and storyteller, will tell tantalizing tales of the past.

When paired with family favorites like the petting zoo, cheer contests, livestock shows and the greasy pig contest — where kids try to catch greased-up piglets — there will be plenty of pieces of the past to keep folks engaged, organizers said.

“In our day of video games and phones and computers … we’re trying to do more of the hands-on, back-to-the-earth fun,” Petersen said.

Community college students enjoy a round of games at a previous Stanly County Fair.

But it’s also more than just a good time, he added. There are only a few events that bring the whole Stanly community together like the fair does.

“You see people from all sorts of backgrounds and areas,” Petersen said.

For example, their relationship with the Hispanic community has been growing rapidly lately. In fact, this year’s fair includes Fiesta Friday with a Latino band and hispanic food vendors.

In addition, the Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy is working with Post 76 this year. The school for struggling youth has spent dozens of community service hours preparing the fair grounds this year and they plan to send more to volunteer at the event, as well.

“I think it goes a long way to building up relationships,” Petersen said. “Creating that atmosphere where everyone knows everybody.”

After all, there’s not much more old-fashioned than that.