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You could argue that all state fairs are alike. Anymore, though, they’re becoming one of the last real holdouts of true individuality.

Think about it. In a country chock full of carb-counting ninnies, the fair is the last, great bastion of bold eating and large living, proudly touting goodies such as corn dogs, fried dough and cotton candy. My God, they’ll even put candy on an apple and deep-fry a Snickers Bar!

And don’t forget the smell of manure, cuz nothing says fair quite like a livestock show. For city dwellers, it’s probably the only chance they’ll get to eyeball the heifers and sows bankrolling their Atkins diet.

But why dwell on cows and pigs? There’s much more interesting game to gawk at — the llamas, for instance. Or that sleeveless guy who blows a paycheck at the ring-toss booth, attempting to win a 6-foot-tall stuffed Tigger. Or the 1,000-pound prize pumpkin that’s been quarried from its dirt bed like some new species of wooly mammoth.

The North Carolina Mountain State fair at the WNC Ag Center runs 10 days and has something — quite literally — for everyone.

You want a contest where antique tractors pull stuff? They’ve got it.

You want helicopter rides without joining the Army? Look no further. Clogging competitions? There’s not one, but two days of foot-stomping fun.

And, seriously, where else are you going to see multiple-International Bluegrass Music Association-award-winner Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver in concert for a mere $5? (The bluegrass legends play the fair’s headlining show on Sunday, Sept. 19.)

But some of the best music will be free.

The fair hosts its own version of American Idol, though with a decidedly down-home twist. Each night, the Mountain Music Festival Stage will showcase local and regional acts, which compete for bragging rights as best bluegrass and best old-time band — and for a top prize of $500. (Individual musicians also compete for honors.) But the bigger coup for winning bands is getting the opportunity to be the opening act for Sunday’s headliner.

“The mountains of North Carolina are rich with musical talent — as we have proven from the Mountain Music Festival Stage in years past,” notes Mountain State Fair Manager Bill Edmondson. In fact, traditional-bluegrass bands such as the long-established Buncombe Turnpike and the fast-rising Steep Canyon Rangers have snagged blue ribbons past, and raised their profiles significantly.

Then there are those who need no introduction — but who come to the fair anyway.

Among this year’s special events will be an appearance by Brevard author Marla Cilley (signing her latest book, Sink Reflections). And while that name may not ring a bell with you, you should know that she has a worldwide following, a wildly popular Web site and a daily e-mail letter with 175,000 subscribers.

Still not recognizing that name? That’s because Cilley’s better known as the FlyLady — the guru of the cult of clean, and the queen of anti-clutter.

But event coordinators apparently wanted her to do more than just promote her new book. The FlyLady will also serve as a judge in no less than three cooking contests at Davis Arena — proving that, no matter how famous you get, food will always upstage you at any fair.

Fair facts and don’t-misses

The North Carolina Mountain State Fair runs Friday, Sept. 10, through Sunday, Sept. 19, at the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center in Fletcher (1301 Fanning Bridge Road). Fair hours are 2-11 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday, and 8:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday. General admission is $5/adults, $2/kids 6-12 (rides priced separately).

The FlyLady will meet and greet fair-goers — and her devoted following of Flybabies — in the ag center’s Davis Arena from 5-7 p.m. and again from 9-10 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 15, and from 9-10 a.m. and again from 12-2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 16, and Saturday, Sept. 18.

The Mountain Music Festival Stage will showcase contests between regional old-time and bluegrass bands every night of the fair, from 7-9 p.m.

Special events and concerts in McGough Arena include:

Friday, Sept. 10, 7 p.m.: clogging championship. Free.

Saturday, Sept. 11, 10 a.m.: clogging championship. Free.

Sunday, Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m.: Mariachi Los Negrete. Free.

Monday, Sept. 13, 7:30 p.m.: KAOS and Contagious Blues Band. Free.

Tuesday, Sept. 14, 7:30 p.m.: Satisfaction (Rolling Stones tribute band). Free.

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m.: Buddy Jewell (country). $5.

Thursday, Sept. 16, 7:30 p.m.: Dierks Bentley (country). $5.

Friday, Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m.: New Song (Christian rock). $5.

Saturday, Sept. 18, 10 a.m.: cheerleading competition. Free.

Sunday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m.: Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver (bluegrass). $5.

For more information, visit www.ncagr.com/markets/fairs/mtnfair (click the Mountain State Fair Link on the main page), or call 687-1414.

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