The feel of fall is in the air — which means the annual Surry County Agricultural Fair is not far behind.
Once again the Ferris wheel will roll and the cotton candy will be plentiful when the local fair, in its 69th year, gets under way Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park in Mount Airy for an eight-day run.
Its 2016 version promises to be bigger and better than last year, including midway rides, special events and livestock shows, according to Katherine Thorpe, who is co-chairing the fair on behalf of the local American Legion Auxiliary.
Attractions will include lawn mower racing, a dinosaur show, wrestling and the Hogway Speedway racing pigs, ducks and goats. Fireworks are scheduled every night of the fair.
Powers and Thomas Midway Entertainment will provide rides and other carnival attractions this year for the first time, after Dreamland Amusements held that role in 2014 and 2015.
“Actually, the one that we had last year,” Thorpe said of the midway provider, “is a partner with the Powers and Thomas company — they’re just starting a new ride company.” It is based in Wilmington.
“We’re really lucky to have them, because they’re coming from the Pennsylvania State Fair — so we think they’ll have a lot better rides,” the fair co-chair continued. “We’re really excited — Dreamland was really good, but we feel this one will be as good if not better.”
All of this year’s attractions are expected to add up to higher attendance.
“We had close to 15,000 last year,” Thorpe said.
Gates open Saturday at 1:30 p.m., with the rides to begin at 2:30. Gates open Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Gates for general fair-goers open at 4 p.m. next Monday, 3:30 p.m. next Tuesday, 4 p.m. on Sept. 14-16 and 1:30 on Sept. 17.
The general admission cost to the fair will be $6 for adults, $3 for children ages 4-10 and $3 for senior adults (62 and over with proper identification). Children 3 and under will be admitted free with a paying adult.
Those costs do not cover rides. Tickets for rides can be bought separately, with one-price unlimited ride armbands also to be available for $25. Coupons for $5 off that price will be offered at area businesses, Thorpe said.
A buy-one, get-one deal will be in effect Sunday in which two armbands can be obtained for a $25 price that also covers gate admission and food from participating vendors.
Carload Day is scheduled next Monday, which will include a special group price of $30 for gate admission, entertainment and unlimited-ride armbands.
More than 750 carloads of fair-goers took advantage of that in 2015.
Along with the traditional fair events, an array of special entertainment activities is planned.
• One new feature this year is Dakota and Friends Dinosaurs, a traveling show of puppet dinosaurs which will be presented at multiple times from Sunday through the final day of the fair on Sept. 17. “We’re real excited about the dinosaur show,” Thorpe said. “I think the kids will really love that.”
• “Rebels and Rednecks” lawn mower racing is another highly anticipated event this year, scheduled for 6 p.m. on Sept. 17. “That’s something we’ve never had before,” Thorpe said.
• Returning this year will be the Hogway racing pigs, which will have multiple shows during each day of the fair.
• AIWF wrestling will be presented at multiple times Saturday and Sunday, with one show scheduled on Sept. 16 and two on Sept. 17.
Saturday will be Military Appreciation Day, offering free gate admission with a proper military ID.
Next Tuesday will be Senior Day/Special-Needs Day, with the special-needs segment scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and seniors, 2 to 4 p.m.
On Sept. 14, Canned Food Day is planned, which those donating five cans to receive free gate admission.
School Night is on tap for Sept. 15, offering free admission and discount rides to students.
On Friday Sept. 16, Football Frenzy is planned, when those presenting a game ticket after 9 p.m. or a student ID will get free gate admission.
Livestock is another highlight for this year’s fair, according to Thorpe.
This will include pre-fair sheep and goat shows Friday beginning at 5:30 p.m., with market lamb and goat shows to begin Saturday at 4 p.m.
Beef heifer shows are scheduled to begin Sunday at 4 p.m.
Steer and bull shows start Monday at 6 p.m., with a females-only dairy cattle event set for Sept. 16.
“We’re expecting more chickens and rabbits this year,” Thorpe said of other animal-related attractions.
(Check-in, set-up and other times and additional event information is available at a fair website at http://www.surrycountyagfair.org/index.html)
The exhibit building will be open from 5 to 9 p.m. each day of the fair.
Thorpe is hoping the 2016 Surry County Agricultural Fair will build on its success last year, when the local event received two first-place awards from the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs.
It garnered a first-place Goodness Grows in North Carolina award and first in a media category.