The log tobacco barn, in Heritage Circle, is one of the most frequented exhibits at the fair. Peter Thornton, assistant director of international Marketing for NCDA does double duty during the fair taking shifts sitting with the barn at night. Thornton says the stories he hears are the best part of his fair experience:
Thornton: The best gig at the state fair is working at the tobacco barn. Meet the nicest people in the world, get to learn about North Carolina tobacco and it’s just a great all-around event.
SFN: And I understand on Friday after the opening ceremony you had a record number of people participate in the tobacco tying contest.
Thornton: Yeah, they had 20 people there, I think last year they had 14, and I think that as word gets out, you’re going to have more and more folks out there every year.
SFN: A lot of people may not know, but you actually cure a barn of tobacco in a log barn, and it requires baby-sitting 24 hours a day, and you’re taking your shift.
Thornton: Yeah, I’ve got four shifts, I believe, it’s the best, like I said, it’s the best gig at the State Fair. I enjoy it. There are plenty of folks out there that remember it, they all complain about it, but then they miss it, so it’s an interesting conversation.
SFN: And then, I also understand that you’ve gotten your children involved.
Thornton: Yeah, my children come, we do the exhibits, we do the rides, then I have them sit with me at the tobacco barn. You know what their favorite thing to do is? Sitting at the tobacco barn. They have a great time, just sitting there listening to people, learning. It’s the best thing you can do at the fair.
SFN: You have lots of old timers come through that used to cure tobacco that way and want to talk about it?
Thornton: All the time. And they all have something that they do differently, and they talk about it differently, some are looping, some are stringing. It’s interesting to hear the differnt dialogues, and what people talk about it, they talk about it. They remember it, and they say ‘I don’t need to do that again’, then they say ‘I miss it'>
SFN: Are you all going to do some apples and other fruits this year, the commissioner always asks for that?
Thornton: You know, I bring my dinner and put it in there and cook it that way, but I’m not allowed to share that with anyone at the fair because I’m not an approved food vendor. But, yeah, I’ll throw a couple of apples in there myself, and if the commissioner wants one, he can have one.
Commissioner Troxler will put apples in the barn to be made into a pie at some point during the fair.