Why I'm Not Entering The N.C. State Fair Photo Competition

It’s that time yet again for me to begin thinking about Photography Competition at the N.C. State Fair. I have participated in it for the past 10 years and have enjoyed it overall, despite some flaws. I will get to that in a second. Plus, I’ll also tell you why I actually won’t be entering the competition this year or in the foreseeable future.

To start, I’ve always believed that the competition could use some improvements. Chiefly, giving participants a better idea of who the judges are and what they are looking for. The South Carolina State Fair actually includes the names and a brief bio of its competition judges which is a huge plus. The fields of art and photography are so wide ranging, each and every person has their own taste. If participants could receive a bio - perhaps a paragraph or two - of each of the judges’ backgrounds and expertise, it would be beneficial. I communicated this and a few other suggestions to officials after last year’s fair ended. Apparently those suggestions were either not received or ignored altogether as nothing has changed with this year’s competition.

This only scratches the surface of my decision, however. 

Before entering the competition, I decided to peruse the fair’s website to see what was new and what was returning this year. To be honest, I only attend the fair currently for two reasons: 1) the Photography Competition, and 2) the King BMX Stunt Show. The fair has changed pretty much anything else that I’ve liked in past years. I don’t ride the rides anymore due to how expensive and unsafe they are. The food is pretty much the same each year. The concerts in Dorton Arena are just meh overall.

While looking at the fair’s website, I checked the free entertainment section to see if King BMX was going to be there. I did not see it listed, but figured it may be listed under “Granstand Shows” section. After all, that’s where the King BMX Stunt Show takes place. I did not see it there, either. By now, I had a strange feeling that something was off. I contacted fair officials via Facebook and received the word I had feared I would receive: King BMX was not going to be at the fair this year. In fact, officials decided to replace it with a dog show. Yes, a dog show. I could not believe it! I’ve tried giving the other changes fair officials have made throughout the years a chance, but this does it for me.

The King BMX Stunt Show may seem like just another sight to see at the fair, and some on Facebook found my airing grievances about its removal from the fair as a point of comedy, but what many may not know is King BMX shows had a special significance. My late grandmother (my dad’s mom) and I would go to see them and we went to at least one King BMX show at the fair each of the past several years. Right up until the last fair she attended before her death a couple years ago.

Grandma was terrified of heights and I recall her being on the verge of freaking out when she saw the guys in the show soar several feet above the ground on their bikes to do tricks. She hated it but loved it, I guess. She loved the thrill and the time we spent together watching the show. I loved it, too, and also loved the fact that the guys would stick around after each show to sign autographs and take pictures despite giving themselves tirelessly for multiple (nearly packed out) shows a day. I have two autographed shirts and an autographed poster to back this up.

When I learned of what happened, I immediately thought of those fun times my grandmother and I had. I was overwhelmed with grief and disgust that fair officials apparently tossed aside this talented (and local) act after all that it has given to the fair for many years. That said, I have decided that this year and for the foreseeable future, I will not be attending the N.C. State Fair nor will I be entering the Photography Competition.

Fair officials have lost a 15+ year fairgoer. Hopefully things will change one day.