Crisp fall temperatures and the lure of delicious food, fun games and thrilling rides have brought area residents out in droves to the annual Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair, and Statesboro Kiwanis Club members expect the strong attendance to continue as the fair lasts through Saturday.
Attendance is up from last year, according to club records.
That’s a good thing, since profits from the weeklong fair are filtered back into the community through weekly donations to charities and programs, club President David Beaubien said during its Thursday meeting.
Traditionally, the carnival workers with Amusements of America, the company that has provided the midway for the fair for the past 36 years, feed the Kiwanis Club members during their weekly meeting while the fair is in town. Members met at the Kiwanis Pancake House and enjoyed barbecue, Italian sausage with grilled peppers and onions, potato salad, corn on the cob, green beans, fried chicken, deviled eggs, pasta salad and pizza — much of which can be sampled from booths along the midway, said Mel Melton, who was in charge of the meal Thursday. Melton has been with Amusements of America for more than 30 years.
The meal is symbolic of Amusements of America’s appreciation for the partnership with Kiwanis, said Dominic Vivona, who along with other family members own the company.
The Kiwanis Club, partnering with local churches and other groups, welcomes the company each year and help provide carnival workers with dental and health care and other services. Walter Pease, the fair chairman, spoke Thursday about the partnership between the two groups.
“We couldn’t ask for much better,” he said.
With the last days of the fair approaching, club members look forward to large crowds on what are traditionally the biggest nights for the fair, he said. The money brought in so far this week covers expenses, and the profits from here on out will provide funds for the charity donations the club makes throughout the year, Beaubien said.
“Thursday, Friday and Saturday are what puts us over the hump,” he said.
Club member Carl Bird reported Thursday that admission is up 15 percent over last year.
Vivona spoke about how much the fair has grown in Statesboro since his company first came to town.
Then, “we had $60,000 worth of equipment” in rides and attractions, he said. “Today, we have over a half million (dollars) worth.”
He praised the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair as one of the best.
“We can see why people come out here,” Vivona said. “It’s very pleasant and a lot of fun.”
The club partners with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office to ensure safety. Deputies and other officers frequent the fairgrounds and parking lot to deter crime and assist when needed.
“At the end of the day, we have an awesome fair,” Beaubien said. “It’s clean and it’s safe.”
The fairgrounds open today at 4 p.m., with wristbands for unlimited rides available for $15 from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. during the “Moonlight Madness” special. Admission is $5. The fair will close later than usual, at 1 a.m., tonight only.
The fair opens Saturday at 1 p.m., with wristbands available all day long for $20, which allow bearers to take unlimited rides. The gates close at 10 p.m. with no readmission or ticket sales after then, and the grounds close at midnight Saturday.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.