HAMLET — Better late than never.
Gates opened to the 56th annual Richmond County Agricultural Fair late Wednesday afternoon and while the fields were muddy in spots, that didn’t damper the enthusiasm for those who showed up for rides, games, animals, food and fun.
Heavy rains Tuesday delayed the start of the fair, sponsored by the Hamlet Lions Club, by a single day. But the crowd was ready and didn’t seem fazed by what was generally deemed a minor inconvenience.
Cassie Hartley, of Laurinburg, journeyed with her son Noah Hartley-Smith the 30-minute trek west. While Scotland County has its own fair, Hartley said her son, who turned 2 on Tuesday, seemed to enjoy a bigger event with more rides in Hamlet.
“This one’s better,” Hartley said.
Five-year-old Zyliah Henry, of Hamlet, wasn’t interested in comparing one fair to another. Instead, her focus was on getting in as many rides as possible. The student at Fayetteville Street Head Start slid down the Rapid Slide and wasted no time putting her shoes back on to run to her next choice.
Zyliah barely waited for her mother, Frances Bennett, or 2-year-old brother, Zaelyn Townsend, before heading to the swings.
The 18 rides brought in by Inners Shows, of York, Pa., seemed to be the early favorite among fairgoers. In fact, it made Rena Shedrick-Marshall, assistant fair manager, want to get in line for some of the rides. Well, almost.
“I just wish I was a little kid,” said the grown-up Shedrick-Marshall.
By appearance, though, Shedrick-Marshall seemed entertained by watching the younger boys and girls have so much fun.
“I think (the rides) are going to be a big draw,” she said.
Shedrick-Marshall said she anticipated an even larger turnout by students on Thursday, when friends of Wednesday night’s patrons heard about all the fun their friends had.
Fair Manager Bill Bayless echoed Shedrick-Marshall’s thoughts. He said the presence of Inners Shows was new this year and likely to receive the bulk of the attention.