nc state fair
photograph by Drew Perry

1. Plan your course of action early. There’s a dizzying array of flashy signs advertising everything from elephant ears to roasted corn, so map out the food you’d most like to try ahead of time. The fair has a handy printable map of all the food that’s new to the fair this year, and we’ve weighed in on some of the more unusual and popular cuisines in this video.

2. If someone asks you if you’d like to go see the pig races, the answer should always be yes. Crowds gather in the stands as petite porkers make quick loops around a miniature track. The coveted prize? Cheez Doodles as curly as their tails. Even if you’re unsure of why the people around you are so excited about this, just cheer anyway.

3. Get in touch with your inner farmer by visiting one of the livestock exhibits. Friendly agricultural students, who are enrolled in North Carolina State University, are more than patient when you ask questions like, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Try your hand at milking a cow; just keep an appropriate distance from its rear.

4. At the State Fair, you choose what kind of person you want to be. Will you shy away from nausea-inducing rides like Ring of Fire and Vertigo? Or will you ride ALL of the rides and march confidently in the direction of your dreams (and the trash can)? Don’t worry about the consequences. You lived a great life, right? Of course you did; you just ate a deep-fried Twinkie stuffed with a Twix bar and wrapped in bacon. You’re living the dream.

5. You’ve spotted a giant, stuffed Minion at one of the midway booths, and you realize it’s everything you’ve ever wanted in this world. Whether the game is ring toss or balloon darts, there’s scientific evidence to suggest that your chance of winning increases fourfold when you bite your tongue and furrow your brow as you play. Still no luck? Okay, just one more $5 round.

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Quine is a digital marketing coordinator for the Grand Ole Opry and the former digital editor of Our State. She freelances from Nashville, Tennessee.