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Club dedicates 2023 Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair to Chuck Sheets, who kept parade rolling
Parade time 5 p.m. Monday, then fair opens at 6
Chuck Sheets, center, happily passes on the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Parade chair baton after the club dedicated the 2023 Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair to him for his service over the years on Thursday, Oct. 12. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

The Kiwanis Club of Statesboro has dedicated the 2023 Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair to Charles “Chuck” Sheets, who for 14 previous years chaired the annual parade that kicks off the fair. This year’s parade is set to roll at 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, followed at 6 p.m. by the opening of the fair, which operates Oct. 16-21 during hours listed below.

Club members and leaders discussed details of the fair during their meeting Thursday, Oct. 12, where the lunch served consisted of pancakes, sausage and cheese grits as a foretaste of the breakfast-as-dinner grub to be served to the public next week at the Pancake House on the Fairgrounds. An added purpose of the meeting was to coordinate club members as the volunteer force for preparatory workdays this weekend and to keep the fair going all next week.

But a highlight was Trish Tootle, 2023 fair chair, announcing the fair dedication, as a framed dedicatory plaque was unveiled.

“We began the year saying, ‘Who has served our Fair Committee faithfully? Who is that person that has gone above and beyond, and who is that person that we just can always count on and he always has a smile on his face?’ and this group unanimously decided that we were going to dedicate our fair year to Mr. Chuck Sheets.”

The plaque featured a text thanking Sheets for his efforts, surrounded by photos – including one of Sheets helping to line up a parade – and the poster image used to advertise this year’s fair.

Sheets, originally from Nebraska, long worked as an engineer for the Case tractor company and only moved to Bulloch County in retirement 17 years ago, with his wife, Marie Ginn Sheets, who grew up here. Her father, the late M.E. Ginn, owned the local Case dealership, which helps explain how she met her future husband when he came to Statesboro for a tractor testing program decades earlier. They’ve now been married 60 years.

Chuck Sheets joined the Statesboro Kiwanis 15 years ago, and by his second year with the club was volunteering as the lead organizer for the parade.

In February 2018, when the club saluted him its 2017 Kiwanian of the Year, Sheets had already been parade chairman for 10 years and said he planned to continue as long as he was able. For four more parade years, through 2022 but minus 2020 when the fair and parade were cancelled because of the pandemic, Sheets continued to chair the Parade Committee.

Now 88, he retired from the role earlier this year, and Bobby Turner took over as 2023 parade chairman.

Sheets came to the front of the room in the Kiwanis Community Building again Thursday to accept the dedication of the 61st Annual Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair.

“Thank you to this club for bringing me out of my shell and giving me an opportunity to serve this community, to serve this club and to reach out to everybody in this community and in the surrounding counties so they can come and have such a great time at the fair, and for giving me the opportunity to set up parades,” Sheets said. “I’m sure that Bobby is finding out how much fun it is. …”

That drew some laughs as Sheets continued, “… and how much sleep you’ll lose this week.”


Parade on Monday

Already sounding a little like Sheets, Turner said one message he wants relayed to all parade participants is, “We don’t throw candy.”

“You can hand it somebody, but we don’t want a kid to run out into the street to pick up candy and get hurt,” he said. “Safety, safety, safety, I think that’s the biggest thing. And have fun.”

Turner and other Kiwanis volunteers started their work toward organizing the parade around May, he said. As of Thursday, 135 units were signed up. The deadline for entries was Oct. 10, but a couple more potential out-of-town participants had called and may still be coming, he said.

More than two dozen beauty queens and members of their courts from various pageants will be riding in the parade, he reports.

“With all of our different levels of Kiwanis queens, as well as Georgia Southern homecoming, East Georgia homecoming, Statesboro, Southeast Bulloch, Portal Turpentine Festival, Rattlesnake Roundup, Miss Juneteenth, there’s a bunch of them,” Turner said.

One who obviously gets an honored place in the lineup is 2023 Miss Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Peighton White, who spoke to the club briefly on Thursday. A Georgia Southern University sophomore from Glennville, she was selected by judges in the Sept. 23 pageant.


Merged with GS Parade

Meanwhile, Georgia Southern’s Homecoming Parade has actually been merged into the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Parade this year.

“They reached out to us to join with us so that we didn’t have to close the streets down twice, and it kind of helps both of us out with our logistics in setting up a parade,” Turner said.

The units for the combined parade include an estimated 30 to 35 floats. Floats that reflect the 2023 Kiwanis Fair’s theme, “Carnival Lights & Country Nights” will be judged for prizes, Tootle said.

Other entries will include tractors, classic cars and trucks, emergency vehicles, bands and dignitaries. The parade units will line up on side streets, up to Olliff Street, off North Main Street, and start down North Main at 5 p.m. Monday, continuing down South Main and onto Fair Road as far as the College Plaza shopping center.

Of course, they don’t call that stretch of Georgia Route 67 “Fair Road” for nothing. The Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds is about three miles farther south from where the parade ends.

Fair hours for 2023 will be 6 p.m. to midnight Monday; 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday; and noon to midnight to close the 2023 Fair on Saturday, Oct. 21.

Chuck Sheets acknowledges applause as the Statesboro Kiwanis Club dedicates the 2023 Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair to him for his service over the years on Thursday, Oct. 12. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

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