As Lee Fair opens, leaders say best is yet to come

76th annual event sees festive kickoff
Sep. 10, 2013 @ 11:30 PM

Onlookers cheered the snip of intertwined gold and purple ribbons Tuesday at the Lions Club Fairgrounds — signaling the start to six days of rides, attractions and entertainment that many Sanfordians say they look forward to all year.   

A lineup of local elected officials and other dignitaries did the honors of welcoming the public to the 76th annual Lee Regional Fair, an event that Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive said shows "the strength and breadth of our agricultural heritage and background."

"It is just so much fun to be here and see the magnificent things our citizens do," Olive said. 

To those fairgoers who think they've experienced all the event has to offer, Lee Lions Club President Richard Holshouser reminded the audience that this year's theme is "you haven't seen anything yet."

"We're excited about the fair," Holshouser said. "We've worked very hard to make the fair what it is, and I hope that everyone will enjoy it." 

The opening day pomp and circumstance continued with a parade performance by the Lee County Lee High School Marching Band, which wound its way around the midway. Meanwhile, vendors flipped turkey legs and hamburgers and patrons perused displays in the exhibit halls.

Pam Kerley of Sanford said her 11-year-old daughter, Katie, and her 7-year-old son, Matthew, had entered multiple submissions, including artwork, and both had won ribbons. She added that Katie had been working all afternoon on brownies to enter into a fair bake-off.

"It's encouraging," Kerley said of their success. "They'll do it again next year." While the exhibits are her favorite part of the fair, she said when it comes to her children, "I'm guessing they are going to say the rides."   

Offering her overall assessment, Kerley said, "It's as good as the state fair, in my opinion."

Joel Harrison of Sanford, who made the rounds with his wife, Vickie, agreed.

"This is one of the top fairs in North Carolina," he said.

While he was looking forward to a hot dog, Vickie said she favored the exhibits and was pleased with her haul of three blue, one red and two white ribbons — which she won for her quilt, potholder and plastic canvas creations.

"I like to see what everybody else makes ... ," she said.

Besides the food, games and rides, the first day was filled with attractions and activities like tractor and truck driving competitions, a hypnotist, youth pageants and antique farm machinery demonstrations. Today's schedule includes the meat goat show at 7 p.m. and the Junior and Miss Lee Regional Fair competitions, which start at 7:15 p.m.  

Thinking ahead to the pageant, when she will pass on her crown to a new titleholder, Miss Lee Regional Fair 2012 Tanner Thomas said the best part of her reign was "working with little kids and seeing the smiles on their faces; nothing can compare."

"I hope she enjoys it as much as I have," Thomas said. Advising her successor, she added, "be yourself; don't be anybody else."

Whether patrons are coming to pursue a title or a good time, Fair Chairman Ronnie Turner said the event, which has become the largest of its kind in the tri-county area — has "something for everyone."

"This is truly the people's fair," he said. "Without the people, we couldn't make it happen ... ."

In his ribbon-cutting remarks, state Sen. Ronald Rabin joined with other officials in congratulating fair organizers.

"The only thing I can say at a time like this is have fun, enjoy the freedoms that we have, and think once in a while about [those] out there in the military who help keep it that way."

The fair continues through Sunday at the fairgrounds, located on Colon Road in Sanford. Gate tickets are $7 per person through Saturday, and on Sunday, patrons can pay $5 or donate five cans of food to enter. Ride bracelets are $20.

For a detailed schedule of daily activities and other fair-related information, see www.sanfordlionsclub.com.