LUMBERTON — The 10-day run of the annual Robeson Regional Agricultural Fair had perfect weather — almost.
“We almost made it,” Allen Faircloth, president of the Fair Board said Saturday. “It’s been eight years since we have had perfect, beautiful weather.”
The streak of recent perfect weather came to an end Saturday, the fair’s last day. Several showers had fairgoers at times running for shelter and leaving rides and game booths temporarily without customers.
Faircloth said early Saturday that this year’s fair had “nine great days,” and except for the rain that fell periodically he expected Saturday also would prove to be successful.
The fair had 55,000 visitors as of Saturday morning, Faircloth said. Fair organizers had hoped that Saturday would bring out a crowd of at least 25,000, but that hope was dashed with the arrival of rain.
Annual fair attendance usually runs between 65,000 and 70,000, he said.
“Eight years ago, when we had perfect weather, we had 90,000 people attend,” he said. “Since that year, our goal has been to have 100,000 people attend.”
The past two years have been a financial struggle for the fair, Faircloth said.
“Last year we lost two days of the fair to Hurricane Matthew, but people forget that the year before last we had so much rain that the fair was only open 43 hours of the nine days that the fair was scheduled to be held.”
But even though folks got a little wet Saturday, the weather didn’t put a damper on their visit to the fair, an event that many county and regional residents look forward to attending every year.
Even with the threat of rain, Tonya Mitchell, of Lumberton, and her husband, three children and other family members were at the fair when the gates opened Saturday morning. It was a family day out, Mitchell said.
“We usually come here every year, especially for the rides and to see the animals,” she said. “I like to see the 4-H events. The kids work hard all year for this. It’s not something you can wake up to one morning and say ‘I’m going to raise an animal.’”
Timothy Lewis, his wife Jessica, their five children, and Jessica’s mother weren’t going to let a little rain spoil their day.
“We come every year,” Timothy said. “Today we’re just hanging around and enjoying all the rides and good food.”
Linda Baker of Lumberton was working at the Novelties and More booth operated by Michigan-based Big Rock and Wade Company. She said she has helped the company during their past three visits to Robeson County.
“I help them set up and tear down. Last year I helped them move out when we got flooded here by Hurricane Matthew.”
Baker, originally from Florida, called Robeson County’s annual fair very unique.”
“I love the people here,” she said. “Even with the diversity of this community, during the fair people all come together.”
Bridgette Barnes, 17, of St. Pauls, and Steven Hogan, 16, of Fayetteville, made their first visit to the fair on Saturday. Despite the little bit of rain they encountered, they said they were enjoying themselves and would definitely return next year.
“I like the rides, except for the ones that turn you upside down,” Barnes said. “I’m also into agriculture so I like the animals and stuff like that.”
Mickey and Rickey Gregory, of Lumberton, had been to the fair a couple times before coming to the event again Saturday with their 3-year-old granddaughter.
“This fair is exceptional,” said Mickey, the former executive director of the Lumberton Visitors Bureau. “The people work hard to put this fair together.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.