For most of the year, Paul Jones goes to work at his office at the N.C. Department of Agriculture in downtown Raleigh. As a public information officer, Jones writes press releases and speeches and oversees social media for the department and the state’s various farmer’s markets.
But when the N.C. State Fair comes to town each year, Jones’ office moves to the fairgrounds and he goes into what Jones calls “fair mode.” That means working long days and keeping track of all the different pieces of the State Fair. It means keeping a stream of information flowing on the fair’s blog, Facebook page, Twitter account and other social media platforms.
“For us, the fair is not just one big event,” Jones says. “It’s a series of smaller events.”
But Jones, a 2009 graduate of NC State, enjoys helping people get the information they need about the State Fair.
“I like the fact that more than one million people come to the fair,” he says. “It’s a family tradition, and we have an obligation to make it great.”
Part of Jones’ responsibility is to let people know what’s new at the fair each year. This year, that involved sampling one of the new deep-fried offerings – cinnamon rolls with bacon bits.
“They were really good,” he says. “They should not have been, but they were.”
But Jones says it’s important that the fair also pays attention to events and items that have grown popular with people over the years. There was an uproar, he says, when the fair didn’t have racing pigs perform one year.
“If we got rid of turkey legs, I don’t know what would happen,” he says. “People are interested in what’s new, but we have to balance the tradition of the fair with something new.”
Not surprisingly, one of Jones’ fair favorites is the Howling Cow ice cream from NC State. “I have to have it at least once during the fair,” he says.
Jones encourages visitors to the fair to take a few minutes before they come to download the State Fair’s app to their mobile device. In addition to giving users the latest information on events at the fair, it allows users to search for their favorite ride or food and get directions on how to get there.
He also has one last bit of advice for those going to the fair.
“Don’t miss the agricultural exhibits,” he says. “That’s why we do the fair.”