This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair, and along with the milestone comes a facelift for the fairgrounds.
The 50th Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair will be held Oct. 17-22, with the fair opening Monday, Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. after a parade through downtown Statesboro.
Don Poe, 2011 fair chairman, said a great deal of work is being put into renovations, improvements and additions to the site, located off Ga. 67 just past “Joe Hodges Hill,” a local nickname for the area near the intersection of Burkhalter and Ga. 67.
Getting the fairgrounds ready for the week-long annual event is always an undertaking, but getting ready for the 50th anniversary is an even larger task, he said.
The celebration is “just like a 50th wedding anniversary,” he said. Just as one would prepare the home for a significant event, “We’re throwing a party for the 50th anniversary and we want to spiff everything up.”
The most noticeable change from the highway is the color scheme of the fairground buildings. While some may be surprised by the bold blue and gold colors, those are the Kiwanis International colors and the Statesboro Kiwanis Club voted on the colors, Poe said.
Club members, volunteers and others have been working for months to get the ground ready for the fair, he said.
The Heritage Village area will have the most notable changes, with an expansion of the area used, he said. The Aldrich House, home to a local family for years before it was donated to the club, has been landscaped and fenced.
A new entertainment stage, built by local carpenter Stan Bragg, is located behind one of the main buildings across from the old farmhouse. A lighted, covered stage provides entertainers a secure spot for performances, and inside are dressing rooms for performers’ convenience.
Those gathering for the entertainment shows will have plenty of room around the stage, and a new sound system will help visitors enjoy the nightly live performances, Poe said.
“The Heritage area has doubled in size,” he said. The Pirates thrill show and racing pigs will return, and the old farm barnyard will hold an expanded poultry exhibit with a variety of coops, brooders, incubators and educational exhibits, he said.
The Heritage Village will still include an antique farm implement exhibit, beekeeping building, blacksmith shop, old country store, and grist mill featuring products for sale by local miller Stacy Freeman.
Poe said the Statesboro Kiwanis Club’s vision is to have the Heritage Village be a “showcase” for the fairgrounds that can be used at other times throughout the year. The club also hosts an annual rodeo in April and the Heritage Village, which includes booths used for food vendors, could be used then as well.
The exhibit buildings have been renovated, painted, cleaned and “a five gallon bucket of staples” removed from the walls and booths, he said. Those who plan to have exhibits will not be allowed to use staples to secure the projects and items, he said.
The agricultural building has been repainted and thoroughly renovated. Stalls were redone, fans installed, and a complete plumbing and electrical upgrade was done. A conference room and baby comfort station is now located in the building, which is more open, ventilated and convenient for those showing livestock as well as those there to view the animals, he said.
Elsewhere on the grounds, new lighting, electrical and plumbing work ensures a good, safe location for the fair and the Amusements of America midway that will arrive.
The Pancake House also saw a facelift, with new coolers and a picket fence surrounding the dining area. The syrup boiling exhibit was also upgraded.
“It’s a whole new fairground,” Poe said.”We’re proud of the fairgrounds, proud of our fair and want to be part of the community. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a 50th anniversary. We want the community to be as proud of the fairgrounds as we are. This is a regional community event.”
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.