Rocky Mount Fair ends its run


Bethany Butler, 15, left, laughs while riding the Scrambler with her cousin Landon Williams, 8, on Sept. 26, 2016, at the Rocky Mount Fair.


Staff Writer

Sunday, April 30, 2017

One of Rocky Mount’s yearly staple attractions is going away this year.

Norman Chambliss III, owner of the Rocky Mount Fair, recently announced the fair will not operate in 2017 and has reached the decision to indefinitely suspend the operation of the annual fall event. Chambliss grew up working with his family in the fair business. For nearly 100 years, the Chambliss family has operated an agricultural fair in Rocky Mount.The Rocky Mount Fair was the longest running family-operated fair in the state.

Norman Chambliss Sr., grandfather of Chambliss, started the local fair in the 1920s and operated seven county fairs in Eastern North Carolina. Chambliss III took over operations of the fair from his father in 1976.

Last year was Chambliss’ 40th year running the fair. Chambliss recently informed the N.C. Department of Agriculture that the local fair wasn’t going to operate this year.

“It’s been a great experience,” Chambliss said. “I have worked with some wonderful people and have great memories, but it is just the right time for me to stop. Forty years is long enough. This fall will be bittersweet. I won’t miss the stress, but I will miss the excitement and the people. They’ve been like family. I will miss being with them a lot.”

Skip Carney, president of Carney and Co., which did the marketing and advertising for the fair, said he knows Chambliss has a lot going on as co-owner of Chambliss & Rabil Contractors. In addition to offices in Rocky Mount and Wilmington, the general contractor recently opened an office in the Raleigh market.

“He’s really busy with Chambliss & Rabil, and the business is really booming,” Carney said. “The thing about the fair is it’s an expensive deal, you don’t break even until Friday and you’re always hoping the weather cooperates so you don’t get rained out. But shutting down the fair was something Norman had been thinking about for several years. I know there is going to be a lot of people upset about it who are strong fans. Even my daughter who is in college was very sad when she found out about the news because she prefers going there than the state fair in Raleigh.”

While the future of the fair is uncertain at this time, Chambliss said, he is hopeful that he will be able to find the right opportunity to transfer the license to another organization, so that the fair reopens some time in the future. Carney said there have been a few inquiries about the fairgrounds, but nothing serious. Chambliss said he is confident the fair will be coming back.

“It will have to be the right organization with the resources and committment to put on a top-quality fair,” Chambliss said. “The fair needs new leadership with fresh ideas and new energy.”