My Friday Five: Fair Time, Sports & More

Photo: Chris White

This week’s list consists of quite a bit of sports-related talk and some other musings. Enjoy!

1) Photo Competition Update and State Fair Time
Last week, I was telling you about how it was time yet again to take my photo to the N.C. State Fair for the annual Photography Competition. Judging was from Monday to Wednesday and, alas, I haven’t received a notification that my work placed. I’m still holding out hope until I see the winners on the fair’s website but I’m pretty certain that I didn’t win. It’s very frustrating – especially being that this is my seventh year participating in the competition – but I know that there are many others in the same boat. I’ll be sure to let you know if anything changes. You can still see my photo on display throughout the run of the fair – through Oct. 25 – at the Scott Building, adjacent to Blue Ridge Road. Just walk into the front of the building and turn left. The exhibition begins there. My photo is in the “Amateur Photography” category and there should be people there to guide you to it.

Speaking of the fair, it officially opened with a “Preview Day” on Thursday and its first full day today. I plan on going with my grandma like I do each year. If I’m being honest, though, I’m not all that excited for this year’s fair. For one, I’m an adult and the rides and games don’t entice me as much compared to when I was just a young chap. Nowadays, I go to the fair to eat the food and check out some of the free things – particularly the Photography Exhibition and the King BMX Stunt Show. That’s about it.

One thing that both my grandma and I will surely miss at this year’s fair is the Dorton Arena concert series. Now, the fair is having concerts in Dorton this year but they are very different than in years past. Fair officials completely changed Dorton Arena concerts to have only artists with North Carolina ties – many of which are lesser known – after losing money on headline concerts in previous years. About $900,000 in four years, actually, according to INDY.  WRAL reported fair manager, Wesley Wyatt, said in a press release that visitor surveys have indicated that fairgoers come for the rides, food and exhibits as opposed to concerts in Dorton Arena. Wyatt also said that there has been growing competition between venues in the Triangle area to book headline acts and costs are increasing.
It’s very disappointing, in my opinion, that fair officials resorted to this when it’s my understanding from reading that the root of the money loss actually came from how Dorton shows were booked. According to INDY, the assistant fair manager rewired the system in 2002 to paid, ticketed shows and it worked. After his retirement in 2010, INDY reported that there was no one ready to replace him in this position, with duties being split up among other fair employees and contract workers. One of the contract workers ended up taking on the booking role and booked shows that lost money for the fair. According to INDY, fair officials would “promise the artist a large sum up front, cut the check as early as a month before the show and fork it over at night’s end, whether 50 or 5,000 people arrive” – never toying with a “percentage” or “versus” method as advised by four booking agents that were interviewed in the article. Fair officials did hire Deep South Entertainment to book shows this year which is, at least, relieving the booking issue.

If fair officials want to book North Carolina-based acts, fine, but book a better lineup than this. The only positive side of this change is all of the concerts are free. But that’s another mind boggling thing to me: back in the fair’s earlier days, Dorton would host big, national touring acts such as Jimi Hendrix and Garth Brooks – and the shows were free and popular among fairgoers. In fact, I recall my mom and grandma telling me about this when I talked to them about this year’s change. It’s very disappointing because the Dorton Concerts were the highlight of the fair for my me and my grandma. Neither of us like the rides or the stupid games, so we look forward to the concerts. It’s also disappointing that I’ve looked at other state fairs across the country and those fairs can book some big name acts with seemingly no problems. I think a commenter on this story said it best: “The problem with the entertainment at the State Fair is not that it lacked NC roots. It’s that it was mostly 2nd & 3rd tier acts that no one cared very much about seeing in a venue with worse acoustics than the Grand Canyon, and a problem that is not going to be solved by booking 1980s vintage nightclub cover bands.”

Bottom line, my grandma and I will definitely not be attending any of the concerts in Dorton Arena this year.

2) Trump/Carson BS

I’ll never understand why the media – myself included – give these two the time of day but here’s the latest installment of their antics. Republican presidential candidates – I still shutter at the possibility of either one being in the White House – Donald Trump and Ben Carson threatened to boycott a CNBC-hosted debate on Oct. 28. Why? According to an article on Yahoo! Politics, Trump and Carson have complained that the debate is too long and that it apparently didn’t include opening and closing statements from the candidates. Trump and Carson said they would boycott the debate unless an agreement – and, ahem, their demands – were met, which they were.

All I can say about this is: good grief, put some Dr. Scholl’s in your shoes and debate. I didn’t see any Democratic candidate complain about the length of time for the Democratic debate on Tuesday. I’m sick and tired of hearing about these two and how anyone can support them is beyond me.

3) Dave Doeren Should Be Fired?

I saw an intriguing story from N.C. State’s student newspaper, Technician, on my Facebook feed the other day. The piece, written by guest columnist Catherine Root, called for N.C. State Football Head Coach, Dave Doeren, to be fired just three years after talking the helm in Raleigh. Root cites the lackluster scheduling not having the team ready for ACC competition as a major issue. The article has gotten, let’s say, less than favorable feedback from Wolfpack fans, including yours truly. Root’s scheduling argument is very flawed, in my opinion. WRAL did a story a couple weeks ago on how Doeren and UNC Football Head Coach, Larry Fedora, were still having to play schedules created by their predecessors despite being at the helm for three or more seasons. Schedules are planned years in advance and remain in effect after coaches are fired.

I, for one, think Doeren is doing a good job. It takes more than three seasons to turn a program around and it seems Root doesn’t understand that. N.C. State hired a football coach, not a magician. Have some patience.

4) Heels Are Preseason Fave

The USA Today Preseason Coaches Poll for college basketball is out and UNC is tied for No. 1 with Kentucky! The Heels return almost the entire team from last year’s Sweet 16 team – exception being J.P. Tokoto – and add highly touted freshmen, Kenny Williams and Luke Maye to the squad. UNC has all the pieces it needs to win a national championship and I think the team could very well do that. Late Night with Roy, the annual shindig held to get fans pumped for the new season, is set for Oct. 23 so the college basketball season really is upon us. It’s exciting!

5) Undefeated Panthers and the Continual ‘Canes Slump

With each new season, fans hope their teams will improve on previous seasons. Admittedly, I was skeptical when the Carolina Panthers brought in Ron Rivera as coach. I was patient, however, and the team has actually improved quite a bit under Rivera’s tenure so far. The Panthers have made the playoffs twice in as many seasons after missing the playoffs the previous four. The team has started out 4-0 this season but did so playing teams that will most likely not make the playoffs. The first big test in this young season will come this Sunday when the Panthers go on the road to play the Seattle Seahawks. Beyond that, Carolina will play a gauntlet of games with opponents including Philadelphia and Green Bay. It’ll be interesting to watch.

Next, from a team that has improved over the past couple years to a team that has remained stagnant: the Carolina Hurricanes. The ‘Canes lone Stanley Cup Championship in 2006 feels like centuries ago seeing the franchise now. The team has missed the playoffs each of the last six seasons and has gone through a carousel of coaches. I used to really get into hockey and was a fan of the ‘Canes long before its Stanley Cup Championship run. However, couple the atrocious NHL Lockout in 2012-13 with the lackluster product on the ice from the ‘Canes since, and that support has wavered. I’ve recently just kept up with the score, wins and losses as opposed to watching games on TV and attending games in person.

It’s a new season, so I thought “why not” and I watched a ‘Canes game on TV – a 4-3 loss to a Detroit team that came back to win. What I saw was surprising. It was clear to me that this team had virtually no leadership from its captain/assistant captains – with the exception of maybe one of the assistants – and didn’t play with heart like ‘Canes teams of yesteryear. It’s also funny to me how people wonder why PNC Arena isn’t a packed house for ‘Canes home games on a regular basis. When fans are expected to dish out $30-80 for nose bleed seats and $100+ for lower level seats – plus $15 for parking and whatever else for food, etc. – to see a team that has missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons and, in my opinion, plays with no drive or heart, it’s no wonder the arena is usually empty and the away team’s fans outnumber the home fans. Like the Carolina Panthers, this will be interesting to watch as well.

Thanks for Reading 

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