When Statesboro Kiwanis member Horace Harrell first realized he was being introduced as the 2009 Kiwanian of the Year, his wife Dianne kissed him warmly on the cheek as he reddened with surprise.
The 2007 Statesboro Kiwanis Club president listened along with the rest of the club members and guests at Thursday's evening banquet, but as 2008 award recipient Gary Mikell gave hints about this year's honoree, Harrell quickly came to the realization that it was him.
In humble tones, he walked to the podium and accepted the plaque. "I'm kind of floored," he said. "I did join Kiwanis a lot of years ago, but I didn't join it for recognition. I joined it for what it has done for me and this community."
The club, which also celebrated its 50th anniversary Thursday, honors a member each year that has shown exemplary service, dedication and a genuine love for the club and what it does for the community.
Harrell is also a former George F. Hixson Fellow — an honor reserved for club members showing great leadership and dedication. He was also honored earlier during Thursday's banquet for having 27 years of perfect attendance in Kiwanis meetings. He has been a Kiwanis member for 31 years.
"This is the highlight of all the years I have been in this club and I thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Harrell is seen every night during "fair week" when the club hosts its annual fundraiser, the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair. He and his wife work in various capacities during the fair and otherwise in club activities. While Mikell introduced Harrell, he joked about his being a "man of integrity" and then followed with a story about how Harrell met Dianne - his former student at Georgia Southern College.
During the evening's activities, which included dinner catered by RJ's Steaks and Seafood, club President Barbara Price recognized four charter members of the Statesboro Kiwanis Club, which formed 50 years ago; Wyatt Johnson, 1963 club president; Belton Braswell, 1967 club president; Tal Callaway, 1965 club president; and Judge Avant Edenfield, who was unable to attend the event Thursday.
Behind her were several framed bits of history - fair books and bulletins from years past.
After the awards and recognitions, club members and their guests - including special guests, the widows of club members who have passed away - a video was shown, with interviews from charter members Braswell and Johnson, talking about the club's history.
They and other club members shared humorous tales about the first fair with carnival company B's Old Reliable, held at Parker Stockyard on Stockyard Road.
"We had to tell them no girlie shows," Braswell said in the video.
The video commemorated the day the club burned the $3,000 note on the loan they borrowed to hold the first fair; and the week of the second fair, held in a corn field off Westside Road, during which the weather dumped rain all week.
The video showed club members talking about purchasing the current fairgrounds and building each new structure. The members in the video spoke about the beauty pageant - long-time fair chairman and past president Darrell Colson shared a tale about "mamas fighting" during one pageant, over disagreements about their daughters' dresses.
As members shared memories, the video took viewers through time to when the Pancake House, the Heritage Village and Aldrich House, and other aspects of the fairgrounds came into being.
Members talked about helping special needs guests on Wednesdays during fair week and spoke about the ways money made through the fair is filtered back into the community.
On video, club member Mike Bowen said "Every time someone gets a check, I get that feeling of pride." Every week, some group benefits from the fair proceeds - blood drives, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, hospice, children overseas - the list is great. Kiwanis money paid in part for Bulloch County's first "Jaws of Life;" helps pay for the county's fireworks each July 4; and has paid for several medical training and law enforcement program needs.
"We've got the greatest civic club in the community and probably always will," said member Walter Pease on the video.
When Bill Ponder was asked on video what the best part of being a Statesboro Kiwanian is, he said "... being able to see firsthand what people are talking about when they say 'giving back to the community.'"
Former club president Mollye Sisson summed it up on a few concise words: "We are a good team and we do good work."
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at 489-9414.