This week, tens of thousands will converge on the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds to enjoy the week’s excitement, but the fair will have an impact on the community for months to come.
The fair isn’t just about the rides, the exhibits and the food; the annual Statesboro Kiwanis Club fundraiser funnels over 90 percent of its intake back into the community through various donations to a vast number of causes.
“We donate a major portion of our proceeds back into community organizations, charities and groups,” said Jamie Copeland, 2019 Kiwanis Fair chairman. “There are far too many to name.”
The list of recipients may change from year to year, but Kiwanis strives to help as many people as possible, said Kiwanis president-elect Ashlee Corbin. The six-day event takes a year to plan, with a great deal of participation from club members.
“The Fair Committee works all year long to plan the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair as well as the Statesboro Kiwanis Rodeo (another fundraiser that benefits the community),” she said. “It’s a lot of work — physical work such as maintaining and repairing the facilities at the fairgrounds — but also a lot of mental work — deciding on themes, making decisions on prices, entertainment, marketing and just coordinating so many different moving parts. We have fun doing it, but it can also be stressful and exhausting — especially during the week of the fair.”
members can be seen in blue or yellow shirts and jackets throughout the
fairgrounds. They man gates, take tickets, provide security, handle injuries
and other emergencies, issue prizes and ribbons, monitor exhibits, operate the
country store and barbecue hut, and just about anything else that is needed.
“Some Kiwanians have been out at the fairgrounds day in and day out,” she said. “When we get to hear about the impact that our donation makes on an individual, it makes all of it worth it. We give back in excess of $100,000 each year.”
By no means a complete list, some of the charities and groups that have benefitted from the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair over the years include 4-H and FFA clubs in Bulloch, Screven, Jenkins, Tattnall, Evans, Bryan and Candler counties; local law enforcement groups; the Boys and Girls Club (scholarships for students) Backpack Buddies; Reach GA Scholarship in Bulloch and Jenkins counties; Homebound Services; Medical Connection; Action Pact; Ogeechee Area Hospice; International Festival; Air Evac; Statesboro Food Bank; Ogeechee River Baptist Association Hot Meals Program; K9 Foundation; Safe Haven; and various Boy Scout, Girl Scout and Trail Life groups.
Money isn’t the only thing that benefits the community, Copeland said. The fair also gives people of all ages a venue to compete with arts and crafts exhibits; homemade jams, jellies and baked goods; crops and floral arrangements; and the educational minibooths for 4-H and FFA members, he said.
Then there is the livestock program.
“We also give livestock to students from the (seven) counties,” Corbin said. “The Kiwanis Livestock Program aims to teach responsibility to the children of Bulloch and surrounding counties. The livestock shows are the culmination of their projects. We are proud to say that many of these children grow up to be involved in agriculture and to have their children involved in the Kiwanis Livestock Program.”
Children involved in the program learn a great deal about caring for the animals, as well as the responsibility of training and showing them, Copeland said.
A successful fundraiser
The reason the Statesboro Kiwanis Club is able to help so many charities and programs is because the annual fair draws nightly crowds from all over the region.
People pay admission, buy tickets or wrist stamps, purchase food, play midway games and spend money on novelties or other items.
This year, they will enjoy commercial and educational exhibits and an expanded midway with even more exciting thrill rides and games than ever before. The midway is provided by Amusements of America, owned by the Vivona family. Dominic Vivona Jr. said there are at least four new rides in Statesboro this year, with some favorites returning after a brief hiatus.
Entertainment, free with admission, includes several performers and bands, a Banana Derby with monkeys riding dogs, a Stilt Woman and a Jurassic educational dinosaur program, Copeland said.
The Heritage Village section holds several agricultural displays such as antique farm implements, an old country store, the historic Aldrich House and a farmyard.
A row of local vendors offers a variety of foods, but there are more food choices on the midway, at the 4-H booth, the Pittman Park booth, the Circle K Barbecue Hut and the famous Kiwanis Pancake House.
This year, wrist stamps are available nightly and allow a person to ride as many rides as they wish, as often as they want, Corbin said. The stamps are $20, except for Saturday, when they are $25.
Also, Kiwanis members will be enforcing a new “no smoking, no vaping” rule on the fairgrounds.
The week may be exhausting to some, but to the Statesboro Kiwanis and entities who receive donations, the benefits are worth it, she said.
“It is hard work planning this event each year, but we do it so that we can give back money to the community — gate proceeds go back into the Bulloch County area to organizations that need financial assistance,” she said. “We do it because we love Statesboro. We do it because we love families and children and because it brings all of these loves together.”
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.