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Fair week comes full circle

Leland Riggs discusses 29 years of life with Fair

    Amusements of America is packing up the midway this morning, leaving the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair in Statesboro for another fair in the next town.

    Homemakers and other exhibitors are removing their displays and entries, taking home prize ribbons and memories. Local 4-H Club and FFA members are dismantling mini-booths.
    While most folks out on the naked fairgrounds today are putting this year’s Fair behind them, the Statesboro Kiwanis Club is already planning the 2007 fair.
    It takes a year to plan the huge, week-long event, said Statesboro Kiwanis member Leland Riggs, who has been at the Fair all week doing his part, as he has done for the past 29 years he has belonged to the club. Riggs, 90, is one of the oldest members of the club, age-wise as well as in experience.
    “I’m listed as a charter member, but I have only been a member for 29 years,” he said. The club is about 50 years old,and has hosted the fair as a fund raiser for the past 45 years.
    Riggs has been around just a bit longer than Amusements of America has provided the midway for the fair. The year after he joined the club, Dominic Vivona and his crew signed a contract with Kiwanis members, and the partnership has grown and flourished ever since.
    As a matter of  fact, Fair Chairman Darrell Colson said Friday the club signed another five-year contract with the company, since the previous contract expired with this year’s fair.
    Riggs has seen a great deal of change regarding the fair, but said it has all been good.
    “It has grown a lot,” he said. “The midway has always provided a diversity of rides. Dominic owns more than he brings here, and he rotates what he brings and brings new rides, which keeps us growing and alive.”
    The livestock shows have always been a large part of the fair, and time has only served to increase interest. In addition to cattle and hogs, youth are now showing sheep and goats, he said.
    “The club gives the kids the animals, and they raise them and show them here for two years,” he said. “After that, it’s their animal.”
    The fairgrounds have expanded continually, with new buildings going up and the older ones remodeled and refurbished. It helps to have members who are handy with tools, he said.
    “We always try to invite people to join the club who have the capability of helping us keep (the grounds) up,” he said.
    Today, the Statesboro Kiwanis Club has a membership approaching 160, with a variety of businesses represented.
    Riggs recalled when the fair was small enough to need only a fraction of the parking area it has today.
    “We have to rent a small piece of property for parking, but we own most of this,” he said. “We started from scratch, and it’s growing.”
    The 90-year-old is still a highly active member of the club. In his 29 years serving Kiwanis, he has held offices including committee memberships, vice president, president-elect and president. He has been honored as Kiwanian of the Year and as a Hickson Fellow within the club. He served as parade chairman for 10 years, and even had perfect attendance for 27 years, he said.
    Now, when he is not selling tickets for the fair, he looks after the agricultural exhibit buildings. Riggs doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon, he said.
    The Statesboro Kiwanis Club holds the fair each year to raise money that is filtered back into the community through donations throughout the year to various causes.

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