By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Pease first female fair chairperson in Statesboro Kiwanis history
Oversees entire operation
Deb Pease, the first chairwoman of the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair, chats and waves as she flits from one event to the next via golf cart Tuesday. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

For 56 years, the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair has been led by a male fair chairman, but on many occasions, a woman silently contributed to the task. This year, that lady, Debra Pease, enjoys the title of “fair chairperson” in an official capacity.

Known by friends as “Deb,” Pease has been with the Statesboro Kiwanis Club for over 40 years, but only became an official member in 2003. Before that, however, she did as much or more work than any member, volunteering wherever she could and raising an entire family of Kiwanians.

Her husband, Walter Pease, joined the club in 1975. The couple’s first date was attending a Kiwanis anniversary party, and they married in 1978.

Walter Pease has been Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair chairman four times, so the role isn’t unfamiliar to his wife. She helped him each time he served as chairman, especially one year when he became ill, she said.


The role of a fair chair

What, exactly, does a fair chairman do? For Pease, the answer is simple.

“I stomp out fires,” she said.

A fair chairman oversees the entire operation. The chairman communicates with Amusements of America, the family-owned company that has provided the fair’s midway for over 40 years.

The chairman is the go-to person for everyone, but Pease said she delegates a great deal of responsibility to dedicated division chairs. When an issue requires her attention, “I either make a decision or grab the fair committee and we make the decision,” she said.

In her role, Pease partners with the Vivonas, the family that owns the midway company. For her, that is easy, because over the years, the partnership between the club and the carnival has developed in a family-type relationship.

“Amusements of America loves to come to Statesboro,” she said. “Here, they are treated with respect.”

The friendship between the Vivonas and many Kiwanians means shared meals, camaraderie and year-long communication.

Pease also helps recruit volunteers, works with other clubs that help with the fair, “oversees stuff, does paperwork, keeps up with everybody, answers questions and puts out fires,” she said.

Even while speaking with a reporter, Pease showed her multi-tasking skills, juggling a cellphone, Kiwanis office phone, answering questions and directing visitors to the fair office on where to go for their particular needs.

“The phone calls and questions will drive you crazy,” she said with a laugh. “And if not, there are emails and texts.”

During constant calls to the fair office Tuesday, she said, “My cellphone has been on charge since Sunday.”


Third generation Kiwanis connections

Pease is originally from Flemington, Georgia, in Liberty County. She is a retired teacher who specialized in art, and later opened Westchester Leatherworks on West Main Street, where she did leather repair and leather craft and sold horse tack.

She raised two daughters, Leslie and Emily, who each have two children. For the past couple of decades, the Pease children and eventually grandchildren could be found every night during Fair Week, playing in the fair office and helping where they could. They would hand out prize money, answer phones and run errands. Sometimes the grandchildren are seen riding around the fairgrounds on golf carts with either Grandpa or Grandma.

But third-generation Kiwanis fair involvement isn’t limited to the Pease family, or even club members. As a long-time volunteer running the livestock barn and shows, and helping 4-H and FFA students with donated livestock, (the club provides animals for those youth to raise and show as club projects), Pease realized this year she is now helping the third generation of FFA and 4-H kids.

She said she is honored to be the first female fair chairperson, especially since Kiwanis is such an integral part of her family’s lives.

The 57th Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair will be in Statesboro through Saturday, Oct. 20. Admission for people ages 6 and older is $5. The agricultural fair, which has exhibitors from a seven-county area, is located on Highway 67 (Fair Road) a couple miles south of Statesboro.

Herald employee and Statesboro Kiwanis member Ashlee Hooks Corbin contributed to this article.

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

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter