RALEIGH — State fairs are known for being noisy and crowded, with flashing lights and blaring music all competing for our attention. After a year off in 2020 from the pandemic, many are looking forward to the N.C. State Fair this fall.
But some struggle with the fair’s loud noises and crowded spaces, so this year, the N.C. State Fair is endeavoring to be more inclusive.
Organizers are dedicating a day of the 10-day fair to those who need a break from the sensory overload.
The accessABILITY Day is a result of a new sponsorship the N.C. State Fair announced Monday with local tech company Bandwidth. The day, scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 17, will include targeted music, vendors, rides and games during the morning, as well as a few all-day activities.
The announcement was made during a groundbreaking ceremony for Bandwidth’s new campus on land recently purchased from the Department of Agriculture. Bandwidth is building its global headquarters campus nearby at the corner of Edwards Mill and Reedy Creek roads, which once housed a fair park-and-ride lot.
“We needed a partner with the same philosophies that we have about inclusion, about making the State Fair accessible to all the people of North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler during the ceremony.
Bandwidth is a local software company supplying a platform that helps applications talk to each other. They helped Google launch Google Voice and work with companies like Zoom, Microsoft and GoDaddy.
The N.C. State Fair will be back in 2021 after being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year. The fair will run from Thursday, Oct. 14, to Sunday, Oct. 24.
On Oct. 17 from 8 a.m. to noon, the fair will be devoted to a less over-whelming atmosphere. Rides and games, opening at 9 a.m., as well as vendors, will run without lights or music. Music stages will be devoted to playing acoustic music, and the public address system will be limited to lost visitor announcements.
A “Bandwidth Chill Out Zone” will be available throughout the day in the Graham Building and will feature seating, low lighting and soft music for guests needing a break. Noise canceling headphones also will be available for checkout at the location.
Guests will be able to compete in specially adapted competitions, and family restrooms will be renovated to include adult changing stations.
David Morken, cofounder and chief executive officer of Bandwidth, said the partnership with the N.C. State Fair is part of the company’s commitment to benefit their local community as they expand to a global marketplace.
“We need deeper roots, we’re reaching higher than we’ve ever reached before,” Morken said during the news conference.
The sponsorship, which is for $500,000 for 2021, is part of a partnership that will be continuing into the foreseeable future, a fair spokesperson said.