NC State Fairgrounds inches toward ‘normal’ with a big indoor show this weekend

Business at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds is slowly getting back to normal, which means even months ahead of the State Fair, big shows — and big crowds — are starting to return.

In previous weeks, with state restrictions on gatherings starting to relax, the Fairgrounds has hosted a number of small and medium-sized events: a gun show; a spring wedding show; a sports card, memorabilia and comics show; and ReptiCon, an event showcasing reptiles and small exotic pets.

This weekend, the Fairgrounds will host its biggest indoor event since the COVID-19 pandemic brought activity to a halt more than a year ago: the spring version of the Southern Ideal Home Show, which runs Friday through Sunday.

(The Dino Safari, which ran Feb. 18 to March 7, has been the biggest-drawing event for the Fairgrounds in the past year, but it was a drive-thru attraction.)

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started impacting schedules in February 2020, the State Fairgrounds has lost $9.2 million in revenue because of canceled events, including the State Fair in Raleigh.

Raleigh’s State Fair and the Mountain State Fair in Fletcher are back on this year, North Carolina Department of Agriculture commissioner Steve Troxler announced last month.

When Troxler made the call in June 2020 to cancel last year’s State Fair, the Fairgrounds had already seen 186 event cancellations.

Andrea Ashby, director of public affairs for the state agriculture department, which oversees the Fairgrounds and the State Fairs, said that 2021 is looking brighter.

“We are starting to get more calls for shows, and business is returning, but it is not fully back to normal,” Ashby said.

“We are happy to have shows returning to the grounds,” she said. “They have been well attended, and we understand they have been successful for the small businesses involved.”

Stimulus money to spend? The Home Show is ready.

The Southern Ideal Home Show, which typically happens each spring and fall in Raleigh, is three days of exhibits designed to help consumers make decisions about home improvement purchases and projects.

This week’s show will be the fourth such home show in the country so far this year by Marketplace Events (its first home show in North Carolina), which puts on the Southern Ideal Home Show.

Show manager Tina Robinson said attendance at other shows this year has been very good.

Robinson said that many people with stimulus money are looking at home improvement projects now, and home shows are a great place to get information and find businesses to help with that.

With one stimulus check — $1,400 — Robinson says a person could redo the flooring in one bedroom, or do a garage makeover (a floor coating for a single-bay garage, with money leftover for storage). You could also have your bathtub or shower remodeled or do some landscaping.

“Most of our attendees are married and come with a spouse, which means $2,800 and a bigger project,” Robinson said. “Or putting that money toward a larger project, in general.”

What’s hot right now? Kitchen and bath remodels still top the list, she said.

But if you’re in the market for a swimming pool, you’ll need to be patient.

“The list to get into a pool right now is well over a year’s wait,” she said — but they’ll still have a pool vendor at the show, so you can plan ahead.

In addition to the legion of vendors, experts and exhibitors on site each day, there will also be food trucks.

Safety at the show

Robinson said that guest wellness protocols will be in place at the venue, and masks are mandatory for attendees and vendors.

There will be hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations throughout the show, and social distancing will be strongly encouraged.

There’s more information about guest wellness protocols at the show website:

Tickets and schedule

Show hours are Friday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12. Advance $9 tickets are available online at If you purchased tickets for a canceled 2020 Fairgrounds Southern Ideal Home Show and still have them, you can use them for this spring show, or for the fall show, scheduled for September 17-19, 2021.

Friday is Hero Day, which means all active military personnel, veterans, EMTs, nurses, healthcare workers, firefighters, police and medical personnel receive complimentary admission with valid ID.

Friday is also Senior Day, so tickets for those ages 60 and up are $7 online and at the box office.

Sunday is Teacher Day, so teachers receive complimentary admission to the show with valid faculty ID at the box office.