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The Force behind the Fair - Kiwanis Club members spend year planning the weeklong event
Kiwanis members work diligently to keep the pancakes and sausage coming while long lines form outside the pancake house. - photo by Special
    Every year as fall arrives, most people begin to think about the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair.  They anticipate it, they enjoy it, and after a week it’s gone until next year.
    If you’re a Statesboro Kiwanis Club member, however, the fair never ends.
    The day after the fair packs up and leaves, club members begin planning and preparing for the fair the following year. The huge endeavor takes a year’s worth of planning, and as 2007 Fair Chairman Darrell Colson told the Statesboro Kiwanis Club Thursday, “This is our one and only fund raiser.”
    musements of America brings the midway each year, as they have the past 29 years. But the Statesboro Kiwanis Club — especially a select few of the members — is the “force behind the fair.”
    Most people just go to enjoy the food, the rides, the exhibits. They never stop to think about the vast amount of work that needs to be done before the fair opens. There are 365 days worth of planning and physical work, because even with an entire year between the fairs, there is always something that needs to be done.
    Colson had high praise for the 2007 Fair Committee, made up of Bede Mitchell, Jake Simons, Carl Brister, Vince Galasso, Bob Lanier and Bill Cheshire.
    “They’re the ones who are driving this train,” he said. “I just ride the caboose.”
    The club has made some major changes this year to the fairgrounds, including a new porch on the old log cabin, a new equipment shed, and a renovation of the little red barn at the back of the fairgrounds where livestock will be displayed this year.
    “We’ve spent 1,800 hours getting ready for this fair,” Colson said. “Fifty members have put in 20 hours; 19 have put in anywhere from 20 to 70 hours, and four of us have put in over 100 hours.”
    There are many projects that must be completed by fair time each year.
    The Fair Book offers a wealth of information as well as advertisements from fair supporters. Long-time club member Vince Galasso edits the fair book, as well as handles the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Beauty Pageant. Just about any question a person has about the fair can be answered by picking up a copy of the Fair Book.
    This year Carl Brister is the parade chairman. Organizing the parade is a hefty responsibility and isn’t as easy as it may seem. Organizations must return parade applications, then the entries are placed in a line-up to make the parade appear well-put together and entertaining. A grand marshal must be chosen, (this year is Dr. and Mrs. Bruce and Kathryn Grube) and there is always the clean-up afterward.
    The fairgrounds must be maintained year round. Long-time club member Ben Nessmith handles the grounds, keeping the grass mowed, the buildings in repair, and other maintenance that needs t o be done year round.
    Tickets are sold in advance, and the lady behind  that undertaking is Barbara Price.
    “We are almost sold out,” she said Thursday, and encouraged members to help sell advance ride tickets over the weekend.
    Don Whaley has overseen the Kiwanis Pancake House for several years now, and works there every night the fair is open as volunteer churn out stacks of fluffy pancakes and pounds of spicy country sausage. He also maintains the facility and makes sure it is clean, operable and ready to go when the fairground open for business.
    “I’m here from noon to closing every night,” he said. Each year the pancake house sells about 350 pounds of sausage — each plate has a stack of pancakes and two links of sausage. That’s about 2,100 pounds of sausage each year, he said.
    Paul Smith actually lives at the fairgrounds. His mobile home borders the chain link fence along the side behind the old barn and Aldrich House. Does the noise bother him during fair week? Not at all — he is constantly in motion on his golf cart, navigating through the crowd, helping where he can. Smith handles the electrical and utility issues for the fairgrounds.
    The livestock shows are an important part of the fair, and club member Deborah Pease usually handles that part of the fair. She organizes the shows, secures judges, and her crew helps 4-H and FFA members with their cattle, goats, sheep or hogs.
    The fair is safe and family-oriented, and people such as Bob Lanier and Dan Foglio work hard behind the scenes as well as on the scene to make sure everything goes smoothly.  They are the security team, and make sure all buildings are guarded during the fair, and locked up afterward.
    “We make sure the pass gates are guarded, and have people who sit at the exhibits buildings to guard the arts exhibits, 4-H and crafts projects,” he said. “We also provide relief for those working and bring them food and drinks.”
    The security teams also keeps a lookout for any potential problems and alerts law enforcement in case of trouble, Lanier said. There are about 15 Bulloch County Sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement officers on the grounds each night.
    Lanier has been in charge of security for about four years, and joined Kiwanis because his uncle, charter member Marion Brantley, inspired him. He spends his nights working during the fair because he, like the others who devote a week’s worth of nights and afternoons to working at the fair, is a dedicated Kiwanian. “We do what needs to be done,” he said.
    While thousands of people visit the fair each year (Colson predicted over 45,000 this year), cars and trucks line up for miles as everyone tries to get in. Landon Lanier, Wallace Brown and Ted Williams will be out in the line of danger this year, organizing a team that will be helping people find parking places. It’s a hot dusty job, but someone must do it, and these men volunteer each year for the task.
    With all the hustle and bustle, many people never pay a thought to those who are not fortunate enough to visit the fair.  For the past 15 years, Sylvia Brown has brought numerous special needs citizens to the fair on Wednesday afternoon, before the crowd, so they can enjoy the fair, too.
    “It’s a labor of love,” she said. “What we do here is to make people happy.” She expects almost 250 people this year, but in years past the number has been much larger. Since several area schools are out this week, those students won’t be visiting the fair as a school unit, which is usually  how they travel, she said.
    The special visitors enjoy watching the thrill shows, are treated to  lunch and then a ride on the merry-go-round. It takes about 20 Kiwanis volunteers to help with the event, she said.
    These are just a handful of the dedicated, hard-working, devoted Statesboro Kiwanis Club members who carve out hours of their lives to make sure the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair is a fun, family-oriented experience for all. And, with the profit the club gets after expenses are paid, the money is given back to the community in the form of year-round donations to worthy causes. The Statesboro Kiwanis Club gives hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars monthly to organizations such as the American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club, St. Jude, Special Olympics, local high school groups and more.
    “Keep in mind, this is our only fund raiser,” Colson told the club Thursday. “And I want everybody who comes to have a safe, family event.”
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