State Fair Opens (kind of) Today

2010-10-12_11-05-01_369 Today at 3pm the doors open for the N.C. State Fair’s preday. It also stands as the last day to get drastically discounted advance tickets for admission and rides (Ride tickets are 56-cents each in advance, and go up to $1 once the fair opens.). The fair also features nightly concerts which require a modestly priced special ticket to get in. (Casting Crowns and Chris Tomlin are sold out, but tickets are still available for Danny Gokey, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Darius Rucker, and six others.


While the State Fair is not my favorite food event of the year, there are several items to which I am look forward, including Cary Methodist Church brunswick stew and ham biscuits, Al’s French Fries, and N.C. State ice cream. The big new items people are talking about are Krispy Kreme hamburgers, Deep-fried Chips Ahoy, Deep-fried Honey Buns, and Kool Aid pickles. All of these are available at Murphy House Concessions next to the grandstand and the 1815 Grille. A complete list of new foods is available. These freak-show foods aren’t what really excite me, though. I’d rather find some neat marinated meats cooked in a pit or over coals. I’ve always wanted to run either a kebab truck, a pizza in a cup truck, or a soup truck, (but it will never happen). Nevertheless, I am looking forward to Deep Fried Bacon & Cheese Mashed Potatoes Bites, Café Du Monde Beignets, AND Crawfish Etoufee. All three will apparently be between the Grandastand Entrance, and the Grandstand Restrooms.

In your search for food, the new Food Finder at the State Fair’s website looks like a good resource.


2010-10-12_11-10-42_94 I’ll be heading out there on Monday, sending Twitter updates as I go, using the hashtag #ncstatefair. Feel free to comment on your great finds here, and be as specific as you can about the location. For too many years people have said that some neat attraction was “near a sign that says pizza” or “near Dorton Arena”. Because these vague directions only leave me frustrated, I wrote the fair a month ago asking for a signage system.

To me the easiest solution would be to name the four or five zones of the fairgrounds and assign them colors. Take a look at these three maps:

Notice how the theme parks have assigned names and colors to their regions. The fairgrounds definitely has at least five regions:

  1. the old midway, expo building, Graham building
  2. the kiddieland midway and old expo buildings
  3. the area next to the Scott Building extending back to the pig raceway
  4. the new midway
  5. The Village of Yesteryear, the flower show, lake, grist mill, etc.

Each of these areas could be named after a part of the state or a piece of our history. Zone names could be something like: Piedmont, Appalachian, Coastal, Banks, Croatan, Dare, etc. Then do what Disney did: assign colors to those zones on the maps, and put up signs at the
entrance/exits of these zones.

Now, to keenly address the original problem: put up signs on the existing light poles with numbers, perhaps, so that people can say "The best corn dog at the fair is BETWEEN lightpoles 12 and 7, in the Piedmont area", or "between lightpole 9 and Gate 6 in the Mountain area". That way people have pinpoint markers to plot where they are. Meet me at lightpole #12 at 3pm…. Of course, the numbers should be mounted high enough to be seen for a couple of Fair blocks and should match the color of that zone on the map.

Eventually formal gateways could be added to signify the entrances to certain zones, but for now, colors on the lightpoles would suffice. Poles with numbers could also be mounted on the corners of some buildings, light the restaurant row, for added distinction.


The new big ride Powers Great American Midways is bringing to the fair is The Fighter (Midway near Gate 10). Only two of these rides exist on the planet, and I will admire from afar. They will also be bringing new children’s rides Ships Ahoy (Kiddieland), the Monster Trucks (Scott Building Midway). Many impressive old favorites will return including Vertigo , the RC-48 roller coaster (the largest traveling coaster in the world). the Vortex , the S 2010-10-12_11-05-20_285 uper Shot, the Claw , the Mind Blaster , the Zipper , and many more.

A full, but tentative, list of rides is posted at the State Fair’s website. The list includes the number of tickets needed and the ride’s general location, too.


The best times to go to the fair are Monday and Tuesday, and it isn’t even close. The crowds are very manageable, parking is better, and the ride times are decidedly longer. As far as parking goes, We have found success parking in the weekday afternoons on Beryl Road (access from the Waffle House on Hillsborough St.), but the Carter-Finley lot is a sure bet and has a dramatic entrance.

In order to get by with the least amount of walking, however, ride the CAT bus. Routes run from downtown, the Raleigh Trader Joe’s area, WakeMed Soccer Park, RTP, downtown Durham, Garner, and Chapel Hill. Fare is $4 round trip, and the bus stop at the fairgrounds is at Gate #1 (at the edge of the Education Building).


Several maps exist of the fairgrounds:


I am not able to provide a Google Calendar for all of the events going on at the fair this year, but the fair has printed an excellent booklet with the schedule included, and they are available at all of the entrances to the fairgrounds. That same schedule, however, is available online in html format , PDF format , and via the mobile platform apps.


While the NC State Fair has done a wonderful job with their website, they have also done an admirable job reaching out to new platforms with mobile apps which include event schedules, maps, news, and more:



Belk Undergoes Makeover

belk The only constant in life, is change. There is no better proof than what happened today at the Crabtree Hudson Belk. As detailed in last Sunday’s News & Observer, the entire Belk chain is executing an image overhaul, and this means two things: standardization of the name and changing the logo.

The article detailed how Belk is going for a more modern image by retiring the scripted font and replacing it with a sans serif, all lowercase font. While one of the first new signs was installed last week at Crabtree and I had a chance to discuss it with the installers. The new logo does convey a radically different image for the store, however perhaps more intriguing is the sign technology itself. The second featured photo is a closeup of the “b” and it reveals that the sign’s surface is actually a sea of LED lights. The new Golden Corral on Glenwood features a highlight stripe on the building consisting of yellow LEDs, but their actual sign is still neon. Belk’s is the first such LED sign that I’ve seen in the Raleigh area, and I look forward to seeing it at night.

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Another major change that will be difficult to accept is the disappearance of the “Hudson” name from the area stores. Several decades ago Charlotte-based Belk bought several local department stores in the region, but allowed their local flavors to remain. For many years Karl Hudson and his family ran the Triangle area stores and did a fine job. Mr. Hudson died about a decade ago and the rest of the family sold their interest, so the Hudson name has been a non-functional relic; a vestigial reminder of the store that once had fabric, toy, electronic, and furniture departments worth visiting.

The new-look “belk” signs aren’t the only recent addition to the walls of the Crabtree Belk store: 5 banners featuring major works displayed at the North Carolina Museum of Art. The banners are gorgeous, and a significant amount of warmth compared the the building’s beige brick facade. I’m also struck by the selection of the works. They all are classic, but show five extremely different styles of painting, yet as a collection, the colors blend well as a set. This is a real treat for those going to dine at Brio, Fleming’s, or McCormick & Schmick’s.



EPA Considering Drastic Laws

Carolina Journal has an article revealing some disturbing concepts being considered by the EPA. In an effort to reduce coarse particulate matter in the air, the agency is contemplating a ban on all grills and smokers. They also aim to limit dust production by farmers. Some even suggest that all dirt roads be paved in order to reduce the travel of particulate matter to ditches and streams. (Keep in mind while reading the article that our mental hospitals have gotten smaller through the years, not bigger)


Stone Temple Pilots Concert Postponed

Just a simple reminder: tonight’s Stone Temple Pilots concert at The Walt has been rescheduled for October 19. After a bizarre onstage rant a couple of weeks ago, the band decided to take a week off and resume the tour later this week.


Broughton Band Selected to Return to Rose Parade

CongratsWide Congratulations are in order for the Broughton High School band which tonight revealed their invitation to participate in the 2012 Tournament of Roses Parade. This is a true honor for the band as they recently participated in the 2008 parade. This was expected to be Band Director Jeffrey (J.R.) Richardson’s final year teaching. However his announcement before tonight’s homecoming game came as a shock to band members, parents, and alumni alike. Congratulations BHS!


City Mulling Crabtree Roadway Options

crabtreeroads The City of Raleigh released their Public Review Draft Report for the Crabtree Valley Transportation Study at the City Council meeting on September 7, 2010. The study looks at several options for easing traffic woes while increasing safety and walkability in the area near Crabtree Valley Mall. The City Council  opened a public comment period for 30 days, with comments due by 5:00 PM on Thursday, October 7th, 2010 .

The website for this review shows PDFs of 9 or so different plans for the area. It appears that some central themes include putting more pressure on Crabtree Valley Avenue, enabling Ridge Road traffic to access Glenwood Avenue without entering 440E, and converting all speed ramp accesses to right turns.

To begin, I passionately hate the idea of removing entrance ramps and replacing them with 90-degree turns. Somewhat recent changes at Western Blvd. and I-440 resulted in a right turn to access 440 East. The result has been more unexpected brake tapping as queues build to access the acceleration ramp. Additionally this move wastes energy as drivers have to trim much speed, make the turn, then accelerate aggressively to reach cruising speeds on I-440. Surely the pedestrian was in mind, but this intersection has about a 100,000:1 car/pedestrian ratio. These pedestrians only have to manage crossing 12 feet while monitoring traffic from one direction. If the DOT wants those accessing the ramp to hold a slow speed until after passing the pedestrian crossing, then they should use signage and corrugated pavement to slow drivers.

I really like the idea of winding Ridge Road traffic around to Glenwood Ave and requiring it to use the ramp system there to access 440. This will allow the existing Ridge Road ramp area to play a role in accessing Crabtree Valley Avenue. I also feel that Crabtree Valley Avenue can become an important piece to this puzzle.

The nine plans must be considered for not only their effectiveness, but also their costs. They are as follows:

Plan (pdf) Cost est. ($mill) Feature
A1 29.5 No ramp over Ridge
A3 44.3 Ramp over Ridge
A3b 40.1 Exit cuts into land
A4 65.7 Lead Mine Flyover
A4b 52.8 1 Glenwood Flyover
A5b 89.9 Glenwood Flyovers
B1 21.4 Flyover to CVA
B2 7.9 Add 2 lights on CVA
B4 10.0 Reroutes CVA
"Ridge Road" 11.2 Changes cloverleafs

There is an additional plan called “ Ridge Road ” (.pdf) that appears to be the economy model. It removes cloverleafs for people exiting Glenwood in either direction, and reopens the one from 440E to Glenwood West. The problem with this plan is that it adds a signal to the west side of the intersection, requiring people going from Glenwood West to 440W to use a left turn signal. It also reintroduces the original problem with Glenwood’s cloverleaf; traffic entering and exiting 440E must cross over each other. This plan does, however, call for this zone to extend from the current Ridge Road entrance to beyond the Glenwood bridge. The plan would be cheap, but would not reduce accidents and really would not improve traffic on 440E as the loop exit only has a 1-car-wide queue.

Elements from the plans that I like:

  • Removing all exiting traffic from 440E at the current Ridge Road exit, before entering traffic has access to I-440.
  • Routing Ridge Road with the exiting 440E traffic over to Glenwood Ave.
  • Using Arrow Drive as a crescent, only accessible from Glenwood and Blue Ridge Roads.
  • In order for Crabtree Valley Avenue to truly be accessed efficiently, the flyovers in Plan B1 will be needed. However they may not be needed in the short term, as traffic can use existing Creedmoor Rd to access CVA and its 440 accesses.
  • I like the ramp design off of 440E in Plan A3b. It cuts into the existing woods just before the existing Ridge Road intersection and offers a more gentle curve. People will want the ramp’s ascension to help trim their speed gently, and that will cause fewer ripples back onto I-440E than the plans which call for using the existing, sharp exit shape.

Elements that are Not Necessary:

  • The plans to reroute Crabtree Valley Avenue up the Edwards Mill hill behind where Brendle’s was seem to accomplish nothing. In fact, they remove any possibility of gracefully linking the avenue with Glenwood.
  • The Lead Mine access flyovers to 440E and Glenwood are an expensive solution. What might work better is a modified-SPUI where Lead Mine road flies over Glenwood to become Blue Ridge Road. It should be designed, however, to send 440-bound traffic on southbound Lead Mine over to the Crabtree Valley Ave access, instead of using Glenwood Avenue’s access.
  • 440W direct access to North Hills Drive (as seen in the “Ridge Road” plan).
  • The plans, such as A3, which show westbound Ridge Road traffic passing under the ramps that access Crabtree Valley Avenue. Westbound Ridge Road would be a lightly traveled road, and a simple stop sign to cross over exiting 440E traffic should suffice and save a lot of money. Also I feel strongly that Varnell Avenue’s access remain open to Ridge Road. I don’t like the idea of limiting a neighborhood’s access to major roads to only one point.
  • All plans call for removing the signal for traffic exiting Crabtree onto Blue Ridge Road, and converting the access to a right in/right out. This calls for all traffic intending to go northbound on Lead Mind to instead use the Homewood Banks/Crabtree Valley Avenue access to get over to northbound Blue Ridge/Lead Mine. The increased pressure on this parking lot intersection probably calls for either a signal on private property or a roundabout.

I’m not the only one with an opinion, though. Be sure to send yours via email to valleystudy@gmail.com or via regular mail to:

Fleming El-Amin
City of Raleigh Public Works Dept.
P.O. Box 590
Raleigh, NC 27602


TWC to Show UNC/ECU Game

The UNC/ECU game on Saturday is scheduled for coverage by ESPN3.com. Unfortunately all of the aspects of the recent legal agreement between ESPN’s parent company and Time Warner Cable have not been ironed out yet, and ESPN3.com is not yet available for TWC customers. Thankfully Time Warner announced today that they will air the game on channel 520. Gametime is 3:30.


Party Tonight with the R2D2 Droid

r2d2 At 10pm tonight the Verizon store at Brier Creek will be holding an R2D2 Droid release party. The special version of Verizon’s popular Android phone features markings of the most famous droid of all on its back. The store will stock 200 of these limited edition phones, and customers are limited to two each.

For those interested in other Android phones, you may find a confusing array of choices across the four carriers. Don’t feel bad. There are 26 different Android phones that have been in the conversation this year. Not sure what carrier has the Captivate, the Vibrant, or the G2? Never fear! gogoraleigh has created The Ultimate Android Spreadsheet to straighten all of this out. This sheet was discussed recently on both Engadget Mobile’s and (C|Net’s) Buzz Out Loud’s podcasts because it shows the price levels, brand names, availability dates (of upcoming phones), and distinguishing features of the current Android phone market. Hopefully it will help others as much as it helped me in beginning my search for the next phone.,


Meat House, HomeGoods Coming to Falls Village

meathouse1[1] If the old saying “adversity breeds opportunity” is true, then look no further than Falls Village for an example. Almost three years ago The Fresh Market closed their Falls Village store and moved to the former Harris Teeter space in Sutton Square. The anchor space in Falls Village sat vacant, casting doubt on the center’s viability in its original orientation.

A new tenant is finally on the way for the center, however. HomeGoods will open later this year/early 2011 in the space, complimenting the long-successful TJ Maxx in that center.

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Even better news, however, is the arrival of The Meat House to the center’s outparcel. In the space formerly occupied by Mattress Warehouse, next to Moe’s, The Meat House will open in February. It will be the chain’s second area store and will bring all of the delicious fresh and marinated meats to North Raleigh that Cary has been enjoying all year.

map it

Now to fill that space where Books-A-Million just closed…


Find a Pumpkin Patch

pumpkins With the heat finally broken, it’s time to think about fall activities like pumpkin patches and corn mazes. The most famous around here is arguably Ken’s Korny Corn Maze , and it recently opened for the season. However, there are many other options. Pumpkin Patches & More is a great resource for finding options for fall fun.


Total Wine Moving to The Lassiter?

Ever since Harris Teeter’s disastrous move across the Mississippi (Six Forks) to North Hills East, there has been a lot of talk about what would fill the old North Hills Plaza grocery store space. Many have lobbied for a specialty foods vendor or a bookstore. However word from a viable source is that Total Wine will move from its space tucked away in North Hills to the large, empty space in The Lassiter. While it is a huge step up from the little wine shop that once sat on the back side of the plaza, the news comes as a disappointment to people hoping the space would add a new opportunity for shoppers.


Capital Creations Remains Open

Just to clear up any confusion…last week Capital Creations pizza had to close their Medlin Drive location, but their Wake Forest Road location remains open.


BikeFest Returns This Weekend

The Fayetteville Street area of Downtown Raleigh will be swarmed on Friday and Saturday with sounds of thousands of motorcycles, live music, and shows. The annual Ray Price Capital City Bike Fest returns for its 6th year, and is once again free.

Deep South Entertainment will provide musical entertainment ranging from Back Seat Confidential (an all-girl AC/DC cover band) to rising country star Matt Stillwell. In total, more than 16 bands, dance troops, and martial artists will perform on two stages during the two-day event.

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