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Fun, food, family
Fair week means many things to many folks
W 102316 LS FAIR 02
Larry Durrence of Glennville gets some fair delicacies to share with wife Bobbie during the 2016 Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair.

Each year as October rolls around, excitement begins to grow as the annual Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair approaches.

The parade filled with floats, classic cars, beauty queens and people handing out candy and novelties gets "fair week" going, and for six whole days, the annual festival draws tens of thousands to the fairgrounds. But why do they come?

The answers vary. The fair lures people of all ages, races and lifestyles. Teens gravitate to the midway filed with thrill rides; young parents take their toddlers to the kiddie rides and entertainment shows, while senior citizens enjoy the exhibits. There is something for everyone at the fair, it seems.

Flashing lights, loud music, carnies luring people to play their games of chance only accentuate the real reason some come to the fair - the rides. Lines form for the chance to be flipped upside down, slung around, shaken up and whirled through the air.

Tantalizing scents of deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies, Italian sausages, New York-style pizza and funnel cakes vie with the odors of homemade chicken and dumplings, fried fish baskets, turkey legs and fresh pork skins or boiled peanuts. Traditional items like candy apples and cotton candy hang from displays. Cold iced drinks or hot coffee are available, too, and there are always plenty of hamburgers and hotdogs or barbecue and pancakes and sausage from the Circle K and Kiwanis clubs.

Projects by area 4-H and FFA youth line the aisles of one building, while hand-crafted artsy pieces and clothing are on display in another. The main fair exhibit building is full of commercial booths as well as local entries for best crops, best baked goods and best local honey, jams and jellies.

Outside, brand new cars, trucks and sports utility vehicles are on display. The Heritage Village includes an authentic Bulloch County farm house, barnyard, petting zoo and old country store, as well as antique farm equipment. The Heritage Village is also where local bands and individuals perform and sideshows are held.

The fair is the same every year, but different. Subtle changes keep things interesting, but most people polled this week say tradition plays a great part in why they return every year.

Strolling between the midway and Heritage Village area, Statesboro resident Patty Akin said "spending time with my family" is the best part of the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair.

Her sons, Landon, 10, and Blaine, 8, showed no hesitation as they offered reasons they love the fair. "Funnel cakes!" Landon said, while Blaine admitted it is the rides that make him smile.

"We have been coming here many, many years," Akin said.

The fair serves seven counties (Bulloch, Bryan, Candler, Evans, Jenkins, Screven and Tattnall counties) as far as eligibility to compete in judged events, but the excitement draws people from all over the region.

Roxie Herring, from Bryan County, said the social aspect of the fair is what brought her to the crowded grounds.

"I love the pancakes," she said, referring to the Kiwanis Pancake House, where plates upon plates of pancakes and sausage are consumed. Kiwanis members have said some visitors come solely for the special meal.

Also, "seeing everybody and seeing my grandson Drew's mini-booth" are important, she said. Proud parents and grandparents could be seen admiring the educational projects designed by their young relatives, A mini-booth is a three-sided display, protected by chicken wire, where a student picks a topic and shows what he or she has learned. The projects ranged from keeping chickens, riding horses and growing tomatoes to farming, hunting and GMOs.

Some people just came to the fair because it is tradition.

"I have been coming here for 30 years," said Shannon Moore of Screven County. "It used to be because of the rides but I can't do so much of that anymore."

Tattnall County resident Sheneda Lawson said she has only been coming to the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair for four years, and that is because of her kids. However, she does like the mechanical bull. She has ridden it and said she will again.

Her son, Greg Sanders, 15, made no bones about his reason for attending the fair: "The girls," he said with a big smile.

At the fair, there are places to be right in the middle of action and thick crowds, and there are spots for solitude. Charles Bragg of Statesboro was found enjoying the hand-crafted items in one exhibit barn and made his appearances at several food vendors' booths.

What brings him to the fair every year? The food.

"The pancakes, sausages, boiled peanuts and candy apples," he said.

He has been a faithful fair-goer "pretty much as long as it has been here," which means 55 years.

"I used to enjoy rides," he said.

For many others, the main reason to attend the fair is to keep it going. Kiwanis Fair Chairman Alex Grovenstein said crowds were huge this week, and everywhere one looked, there were Kiwanis members in yellow shirts and jackets, keeping the pancakes coming, parking lots flowing, ribbons and prize money handed out, and livestock shows running.

To them, the fair means an incredible week of long days and nights and hard work, but it is for good reason. The proceeds from the fair are "given away" to countless charities and organizations throughout the year, he said.

The fair will be gone after tonight, only to return next fall.

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

 

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