Really, it’s about the food.

Sure, the rides are fun, the people-watching is top tier and the agricultural exhibits are interesting, but when the midway lights and the screams from the Scrambler die down, it’s the food that sets the annual fair apart from other outdoor festivals.

Every year as long as I can remember, my mom and I have made a trio of lists of the food we are going to get at the fair. There are three lists: food to try, food to eat and food to buy or take home. This year I have my eye on a pork-chop sandwich, walking tacos and roasted corn topped with hot sauce and Cheetos, along with a red-velvet funnel cake, deep-fried cheesecake and, of course, a candy apple. Fair food is the only reason why some people go to the annual event at all and the new Carolina Classic Fair understands that.  In late July, the city of Winston-Salem, which runs the fair, cancelled the event originally scheduled for Oct. 2-11.

The newly scheduled event, Carolina Classic Drive-Thru runs from Oct. 1-4, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Favorite fair foods will be available for purchase from a dozen past fair vendors. The food, a few drive-thru activities, and an interactive game have been organized where participants will remain in their vehicles at all times. Cars will enter through Gate 9 off 27th Street and drive through the fairgrounds. There are no restrooms, no walk-ups and no cash.

DJ Hargrave, event and branding manager for Winston-Salem Fairgrounds is the face of the new Carolina Classic Fair videos posted on social media. He and his team came up with the plans and idea to bring a new, exciting element of the event for all of the area to enjoy.

Tropical Delights specializes in Dole Whip-inspired desserts and fruit smoothies. (courtesy photo)

“Our immediate thought was, What can we do to bring something good to the community to provide that same fair experience but with social distancing?” says Hargrave.

Two of the select participating vendors, Turkey Tree BBQ of Greensboro and Tropical Delights of Durham will both be at the Carolina Classic Fair for the first time.

“We love the fairs,” says Mike Neal of Turkey Tree BBQ. “It’s amazing that the first year we participate at the Carolina Classic, we have to do some kind of modification.”

Neal jumped at the opportunity and was determined to do something cool for his first time.

“We are doing the crack and cheese and the stuffed turkey leg,” he says, “which won Best New Food at the NC State Fair and the turkey BBQ sandwich with fries and slaw.

“I think we’re building an airplane in mid-air,” he continued. “The most challenging part is estimating the amount of food to prepare for it. Now that we have this four-day event, I feel like I’m shooting in the dark.”

Wendy and Reggie Barrett, a husband and wife team, own Tropical Delights. They’re known for their Dole Whip-inspired desserts and fruit smoothies.

“This going to be our sixth year [at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds],” says Wendy. “They couldn’t approve everybody, so they picked our smoothies over our Dole Whip. We’re happy to be inside the doors so we’re going to move forward with our mainstay which is our frozen fruit smoothies and cored out pineapples.”

Tropical Delights has been participating in the drive-thru at the NC State fairgrounds so they have a small idea of what it may look like in Winston-Salem.

“It’s been amazing,” Wendy says. “We’ve been fortunate to have been selected to participate and we’ve had tremendous response so we hope that transfer over to here.”

While there may not be as much people watching this year, at least there’s the food. (courtesy photo)

The fairgrounds cover 80 acres and there will be some stoppage, but staff want to provide entertainment for customers. While patrons sit in their cars, videos will be published every hour on Facebook featuring pre-recorded videos from mayor of Winston-Salem Allen Joines, city council members, other local influencers and entertainers. The entertainment aspect is the most unique part of the event.

A separate ticketed event, the Drive, is a partnership with Winston-Salem Fairgrounds to bring fair-themed movies to a big outdoor screen. On Oct. 2 and 3, the fairgrounds will host drive-in movies on the midway, as it has during the past few months. Four movies are being offered each night and between each showing on Friday and Saturday night, a fireworks display will cap off the evening. Tickets must be purchased online.

With the menu and my debit card in-hand, my personal fair-going plan is in place. My mom is in charge of driving while I am in charge of ordering from our extensive list. We’re ready to drive, ride and enjoy our time together during this inaugural event. While it’s not the same as experiencing the fair in-person, it’s the next best thing. I’ll see you in line.

Carolina Classic Drive-Thru runs from Oct. 1-4, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Visit for information about the drive-thru, menus and the movies.

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