The annual Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair is a family affair in more ways than one. While many area residents can share childhood memories with younger relatives as they visit the fair today, a number of Statesboro Kiwanis Club members share the “fair experience” as well as membership in the club with parents, spouses, children and even grandchildren.
Today, several club members have relatives who are also in the club. Walter and Deborah Pease raised their daughters to be involved in the fair, and now their grandchildren join them in spending the entire week at the fairgrounds.
Bulloch County State Court Judge Gary Mikell and his son Bob Mikell dedicate time to the club as part of a legacy left behind by their father and grandfather Felton Mikell.
Mike Bowen and his father Carlton Bowen enjoy watching people visit the old country store that once belonged to their family, and members Tommy Hagan and his son Tripp Hagan each value time spent in helping the club in its support of community charities.
For the Walter Pease family, the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair is a part of life. Walter has been fair chairman (or co-chairman) five times in the 40 years during which he has been a member.
He and his wife Debra had their first date at the fair, she said. She didn’t join the club until her retirement in 2001, but before then, she spent almost as much time as her husband working in the fairgrounds throughout the year, as well as helping with the fair all week long each year.
She even missed a wedding gown fitting because she was working the fair, she said. In years past the couple has even camped out on the fairgrounds during fair week, in a small camper that was home while the fair went on.
Walter joined at the suggestion of a friend, Khaki Herrington, and has enjoyed a life of community service and fair work ever since, he said. “I like the camaraderie, the getting to know people I never would have crossed paths with otherwise,” he said. “I also like the togetherness of my family” being involved.
Debra Pease recalls keeping her daughter Leslie, now 34, in a cardboard box in the fair office when she was a newborn. Neither Leslie nor her sister Emily ever missed a fair, and today, the Pease’s three grandchildren spend the week, along with their parents and grandparents, helping out at the fair and participating in contests. Each has won a blue ribbon this year, Debra said.
“It’s a family affair,” she said. “We just enjoy it.”
Carlton Bowen has been a Statesboro Kiwanis member since 1984. He joined because “I felt like I wanted to get involved, and a local civic club is a good way to do that.”
He developed an interest in the fairground’s Heritage Village, which preserves and exhibits much of the area’s rich agricultural history. After inheriting his father’s old country store, which had been closed since the 1060’s, Carlton Bowen decided to donate the store’s contents to the fairgrounds.
His son Mike, who joined the club 21 years ago, grew up being familiar with the fair and Kiwanis Club. He joined as soon as he started his own business and could adjust his schedule to allow meetings and club participation.
He gets “tons of satisfaction from enjoyment and camaraderie” in the club, and enjoys working on the fair committee. He is responsible this year for a renewed entertainment schedule that provides a variety of performances nightly, and on any given night, he can be found with his father in the old store, selling glass-bottled Coca Colas and handing out packs of peanuts for people to pour into the bottle, if they wish.
Gary and Bob Mikell each feel they are “living out a legacy” of their father and grandfather, the late Felton Mikell.
Gary joined 24 years ago, having grown up with his father being involved in the club and fair. “I knew what a great organization (Statesboro Kiwanis) is,” and remembers as a teen hearing Felton “in the phone for six months” out of the year, planning the fair.
As soon as he was done with the Air Force and law school, he became a Kiwanis member.
His son Bob joined in 2011, and remembers helping his grandfather “tend to the water wheel” that still stands at the end of the Heritage Village food court.
The fair “provides the community with a great event and helps so many organizations by pumping money into the community,” he said. He feels he and his father are “building in the legacy” left by his grandfather.
“The fair is also a memory-making event, making family memories,” Gary Mikell said. His involvement as a club member includes being a past president twice, and he volunteers during the fair every year as well, along with his son.
Tommy Hagan is another long-time Statesboro Kiwanis member whose son, Tripp Hagan, also joined the club.
Tripp has only been a member a little over a year, but said he looks forward to making a difference in the community through the club’s efforts.
The club’s focus on children’s charities is a plus, said the father of three. Helping children is on the top of the list” of reasons he joined the club. Also, “The fair has been a part of my whole life. I’ve missed maybe one or two fairs.” He also enjoys being a part of a group that dedicates time and effort to help others, he said.
Tommy Hagan has been a Statesboro Kiwanis Club member for 34 years. Being in the club that hosts such a huge annual fund raiser gives him “a chance to give back to the community,” he said. “I enjoy seeing children come and enjoy the petting zoo” and other parts of the fair that generates funds to help a host of charitable organizations and causes.
There are many other members of the Statesboro Kiwanis Club who, like the Mikells, are in the club because of the influence of members past who left their marks through past efforts, Gary Mikell said.
The Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair serves seven counties (Bulloch, Bryan, Candler, Evans, Jenkins, Tattnall and Screven) and has been a part of local family entertainment – and a way of life for some – since 1961.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.