The North Carolina State Fair is here through the weekend when it will end on Sunday in the usual nightly show of fireworks. My friend Emily and I met up at the fair one afternoon. It was the first time she had brought her two young kids to a fair, and it was quite an adventure.

Emily and I had spent lots of time at the fair as teenagers - LOTS of time. Growing up just twenty minutes outside Raleigh with just two TV channels available to us and tobacco and soy fields as far as you could see meant the State Fair was a real treat. The bright lights, the cheap thrills, the dense crowd - it was all the perfect storm of overstimulation needed for bored teenage minds. I can still taste the greasy drip of late night turkey legs and funnel cake as we lined up to see the pig races, cozying up next to boyfriends against the bite of chill autumn night while we waited for the nightly fireworks, the taste of cigarettes still on those boys' breath.

Yeah, the fair is a totally different experience ten years and two kids later.

All the sights and smells and sounds are a barrage on the uninitiated's senses: from flashing neon lights to shouts of laughter to cheap dinky tunes from the rides, and everywhere the stench of fried food - ribbon fries, hot dogs, fried oreos, fried chicken, fried whatever-can-be-battered-and-dunked-in-hot-grease. It can be a lot to handle with some little kids in tow, so here are some tips for those taking kids to the fair for the first time!

1) Be prepared to pay exorbitant fees for parking

That stroller ain't gonna push itself, so be OK with paying a premium for parking right across the street. Or be cool like Emily and wrap your baby.

2) Dress the kiddos in neon

Trust me, it helps. If you're going to have to chase a toddler down you might as well make them easy to see in a crowd.

3) Let the kids be in charge of tickets and plan their rides

Hey! All of a sudden the NC State Fair is an educational trip! And always smile and wave when the kid is on a ride and every time the ride comes around. It doesn't take a lot of attention, and all of a sudden you're the coolest adult in the world! It felt cute to be so eagerly looked for, our faces finally special in the crowd, even if it was just special to a three-year-old.

4) Speaking of which, always have tickets on hand for rides

You never know when the kiddo is going find THE RIDE they want to do. Or, rather, YOU find a ride you want to do ;)

My personal favorite ride :D

5) See the free exhibits like animals, tractors, and produce

"Oh!" I gasped as we entered an exhibit building and sat at a picnic table. "Now I know why my parents always wanted to go to the exhibits at the fair. It's cooler, quieter, and it's free in here." It's amazing what you learn to appreciate when you're chasing after a kid.

The NC State Fair is running through the end of the weekend, so don't forget to check it out in the next few days!

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