You may notice something a little different when you visit animals in the Exposition Center or Jim Graham Building this year: an extra bit of barrier separating touchy-feely fairgoers from the show animals.
The added layer of protection is a result of an e-coli outbreak at last year's fair, which made 25 people sick.
The physical barriers added this year are extra hay bales set a few feet away from the pens, with an additional gate to prevent any overeager animal lovers from crashing the pens. The outer gates are plastered with signs instructing fairgoers not to touch the animals.
The friendly fellow pictured here is a Toggenburg goat belonging to Cole Younger of K-Bar-C Farm in Nashville, N.C.
Other changes this year: the Kelley Building, next to the Jim Graham Building, will be closed to fairgoers for all but the opening weekend, and food vendors normally set up between the Expo Building and Jim Graham Building have been relocated to other areas.
The changes came about after months of study by a multi-department committee appointed by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler last year.
The rabbit barn near the Hobbies & Crafts building was not affected, nor was the N.C. State cow-milking booth inside the Expo Center. (The fair has also added a mobile dairy classroom with daily milking demonstrations beside the Expo center.)
Even with all the extra protection, fairgoers should still wash their hands frequently while at the fair. There are handwashing stations set up all around the buildings showing animals, and many conscientious food vendors have tubs of hand sanitzer available for customers.
And you can always quell your animal-touching urges by visiting the petting zoo near Trinity Road.