At 98 years old, Leland Riggs isn’t quite a charter member of the Statesboro Kiwanis Club, but he has been an active member for 35 years.
He was around when the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair was in its young stages and has seen the fair grow. He was around when it seemed every club member had a role in the annual fundraiser and now sees a club with more than 140 members, with only a fraction actively taking part in the fair.
He has seen things change, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his pride in the club and community.
Riggs remembers when “the club was all male,” he said. “Then they started letting the women in.”
Back then, everybody worked and played a role in the fair. Club members got out on work days and built the structures seen on the grounds today.
The fair began “as a small carnival, and I’ve watched it grow,” he said.
The rides have become bigger, the attractions have evolved, the Heritage Village has captured local history and “the kiddie land section is a big asset,” he said.
One of his favorite parts of the fair, where he has spent many hours, is the antique agricultural implements section. He enjoys the old country store, the blacksmith shop, the Aldrich House that shows how farm families lived in years past.
“Heritage Village (where these displays are found) is great,” he said.
Riggs was elected vice president a few years after joining the club, then was named president in 1985-86, He has won many awards over the years, including attendance awards, the prestigious Hickson Award and other honors.
As president, he made efforts to encourage all members to take part in the fair.
“The fair is not a separate event. It is a Kiwanis event,” he said. “The fair is part of the Kiwanis Club, and every member should take part in it. I enjoyed the challenges” of being president.
The fair raises money that is filtered back into the community.
“Lord have mercy, I couldn’t name all the charities and organizations” that benefit from the fair’s revenue, he said.
Club members’ dues go into a separate account, and fair money (after expenses) is funneled to charities, programs and other organizations that help children and the community.
“We give to up to 100 organizations,” Riggs said.
People “come from all over and drive from as far as Savannah to eat pancakes and sausage” at the club’s Pancake House, he said.
Riggs remembers club member Marion Brantley starting the Pancake House, using Robbins’ sausage from a local packing company.
Friday evening, Riggs and his wife enjoyed their annual pancake supper at the fairgrounds.
One of his duties as a club member during the fair was selling tickets. He did that for years, he said, enjoying seeing people and taking in money he knew would be used to help others.
At 98, health issues have slowed him down, but Riggs isn’t ready to quit just yet.
He said he would be at the fair again next year, enjoying pancakes and sausage as usual, and said he hopes club members will continue to support the “great event” that the fair has become.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.