With the N.C. State Fair into its final weekend, the people who work there are are also preparing to wind down. For employees like Dudley Baggett, it’s the end of a long run of uninterrupted work.
Baggett will have worked 32 days in a row in getting ready for the fair, working 11-hour days during the fair and then cleaning things up the week after the fair leaves town. “It will wear you down,” Baggett says matter-of-factly.
Not that he’s complaining, mind you. Baggett loves his job, and is amused when people ask him what he does when the fair is not in town. Baggett, a 1984 graduate of NC State, has a staff of 15 people who tend to 344 acres that includes the main fairgrounds and the James B. Hunt Jr. Horse Complex. Even when the fair is not in town, there is virtually always a gun show or a boat show or a wedding reception at the fairgrounds. A large flea market is held there every weekend.
And it falls to Baggett to make sure the place looks nice for all of the visitors to the fairgrounds, be it for the state fair or for something else.
“It takes constant maintenance to have curb appeal,” he says. “If we didn’t maintain it, it would look like a goat field.”
Baggett’s work can be easy to overlook, particularly when the fair is in town. Most visitors are busy checking out the rides and food vendors, never pausing to take in the bushes and flowers and grass that can be found throughout the fairgrounds. When the fair is in town, Baggett’s responsibilities include jobs that have nothing to do with landscaping, but he still finds time each day to water 375 mums that are spread around the fairgrounds to provide splashes of color.
“You have to take pride in a property,” he says. “If it’s not a good design, it will be boring.”
Baggett has worked at the fairgrounds since 2000. Before that he had his own landscaping business in Wilmington, N.C., where his dad was a county agent for 30 years. He loves having the chance to work outside and use plants to make areas more attractive.
“You get to see things grow,” he says. “If it’s done well, it has a lot of longevity. If it’s done correctly, it doesn’t have to be redone. I take a lot of pride in that.”
After several years of working at the fair, Baggett has his own favorite when it comes to fair food – a soft shell Maryland crab sandwich that can be bought from a vendor near the Graham Building.
“It’s off the hook,” he says. “It’s the whole crab, dude.”