Thrill rides, exhibits and games of chance apparently make people hungry, because Tuesday night at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair, lines were long in the Heritage Village food court.
Turkey legs, hamburgers, chili cheese fries and fish sandwiches were flying out serving windows as various vendors kept the food coming.
Operating a food booth at the fair is a great fundraising opportunity for area churches, businesses and other groups. The Statesboro Kiwanis Club often has a waiting list a year ahead of time for renting the booths, and some have been selling food at the fair for years.
This year, things are a bit different, since the club invested about $40,000 in improvements to the food alley. New block stalls, upgraded plumbing and electricity, and cooking rooms where all fried foods are prepared brought the area up to code, and vendors were met with fresh, new preparation and sales areas.
Larry Long, with L&D Hamburger Hut, stood outside Tuesday taking orders and handing over steaming hot dogs, crispy fries and other delights. This is his first year "working the fair," and he said he was having the time of his life.
"It's beginning to get busy," he said as he handed a customer a corn dog. "Last night (Monday) was very busy. I love working with the people, meeting the people."
Proceeds from food sold benefit the Crossroads Community Church men's fellowship group.
Next door, David Gerrald opened the door to a "cooking room" that linked the hamburger hut to his booth. Cotton candy, candy and caramel apples, freshly made pork rinds and more tantalized those standing in line, waiting their turns.
"We've been here 24 years," he said. "I've seen it go from stalls that were like those for animals to what we have now, and the Kiwanis Club has continued to improve things over the years."
The changes to the food alley were necessary for compliance with fire and health codes. But one thing hasn't changed, and that's the food.
Churches dished up fish plates while other booths offered the festival staple, funnel cakes. Giant dill pickles, roasted and boiled peanuts, home-baked cakes and cookies vied with burgers and fries. People of all ages either munched on their food while standing and talking or joined strangers at picnic tables nearby.
Patricia Bosarge enjoyed a fish sandwich while she waited for her teenage daughter to stop riding thrill rides long enough to eat a turkey leg.
"I didn't know what I wanted," she said. "I was scanning all of the booths. It (the fish sandwich purchased from a local church) was very good."
What lured her to that booth was a man sitting in front, calling to others. "He said, 'Come on in, what do you want?'"
That man was Alvin Wesley, who helped the Second Saint John Missionary Baptist Church with food sales Tuesday night.
"This is real nice," he said. "I enjoy people, and get a chance to meet people, talk to people and make people smile. I tell them be happy and love one another."
Sheila McGahee and her daughters enjoyed chili cheese fries as they sat near the Heritage Village stage area. McGahee has been attending the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair since she was 4 and raised her children in the same tradition her parents did her, by bringing them to the fair and supporting local vendors.
"We just like it," she said. "It is family-oriented, home-cooked and benefits the community."
The Heritage Village food alley is open every night of the fair, and many vendors offer different items on the menu daily.
Gerrald said the booths offer groups great opportunities to be part of "fair week" excitement as well as make money.
"The Kiwanis members are some of the best people I have ever worked with," he said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.