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Tradition still a big part of Fair
101708 FAIR HERITAGE web
Lisa Ware of Statesboro feeds sugar cane into a cane mill in the Heritage Village at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Friday.

For many, the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair means rides, games, seeing friends and enjoying a variety of foods while listening to the entertainment.

            But for others, it's a trip back in time, an exercise in preserving and remembering the rustic days when agriculture was a way of life for most and when much of  the family's foods and clothing were produced at home.

            A walk through the Heritage Village portion of the Kiwanis Ogeechee fairgrounds will take visitors back in time as they browse a replica of yesteryear's farm villages.

            The first stop might be the syrup boiling house next to the Statesboro Kiwanis Club's Pancake House.

            Hugh Deal was busy pouring hot syrup into glass bottles Thursday night as someone hollered "you look like you know what you're doing!"

            Deal, a Statesboro Kiwanis Club member, should. His childhood is filled with memories of syrup boilings. Back then, a mule would pull a sweep in circle after circle as the cane was ground, but today, a tractor hooked to gears grinds the sweet purple sugar cane, squeezing juice into a barrel.

            He recalled how after tractors appeared on the scene, he would drive the tractor in a circle to make ruts, then would tie the steering wheel where the tractor could  make the rounds, pulling the sweep, without a driver. Today's method allows the tractor to remain stationary.

            Then comes the boiling, where the cane juice is poured into a large vat in the syrup shed, and boiled for about five hours, rendering about 55-60 gallons of juice into about five gallons of sweet syrup.

            Deal also remembered how the cane skimmings - swept off the boiling juice - would ferment. Some fed it to hogs and the tales of drunken pigs would bring laughter, but others distilled it and made a type of rum-like drink, he said.

            Jessie " Preacher" Ellis, who has been helping with the fair's cane grinding and syrup making for decades, said he recalled playing with other kids during cane grindings and syrup boilings. It was "when you could kiss your girlfriend and get away with it," he said.

            Syrup candy was made by taking syrup, cooking it until it thickened, adding a little baking soda, Deal said.

            Then kids would take a string of candy at each end and pull it, then double it, until the candy became shorter and harder.

            "You'd get closer and closer, with your girlfriend at the other end, and after a while the candy would be a little piece and you were close enough to kiss her," Ellis said.

            "It was hard work, and we had to work, but we got to play too," Deal said.

            Just down from the syrup shed is the Aldrich House, filled with primitive antiques that were used not so very long ago when the family of Monroe and R. E. Aldrich lived in the house a few miles away from the fairgrounds.

            Many of the Aldrich children and grandchildren still live in the area and remember life as it was living in the old farmhouse. Behind the house there stands a wind mill and an outhouse, and an old watering trough.

            A few yards away the Little Red Barn is a new addition to Heritage Village. A horse, cows, chickens, goats and rabbits are on display for the benefit of children who don't often get to see farm animals close up.

            Across the way is a long low building filled with antique farm equipment. Next to it stands a blacksmith shop, and another old plank house holds a honey bee farm, where people can purchase honey and learn about beekeeping.

            The old Country Store is a favorite, too. Inside, a wide array of antique stock shows what a store looked like back in the early 1900's.

            The store building was built in 1928 by Delmas Rushing, who operated it until 1948. Others ran the store into the 1950's. The building remained on Sinkhole Road until 2001, when it was donated to the Kiwanis Club by Delmas Rushing Jr.

            The fixtures and furniture inside the store were donated by club member Carlton Bowen, whose family owned the Bertie F. Bowen Store i Adabelle, which operated from 1929 to 1962.

            The store is filled with authentic and reproduction old metal signs, shoes, hats, vintage jewelry, and old newspaper ads.

            A box of candy -coated Hershey-ettes advertised the candy sold for a nickel. There were packages of Tanner's Painless Eye Water, Swan Flour Sulphur, Grove's Chill Tonic, Cod Liver Oil, H&R Cough Syrup - pine tar and honey; and something called Monroe's Glycerited Asafetida.

            Cold Coca Colas in glass bottles were for sale, but for $1, not for a nickel like they once were when the store was in its heyday.

            People sat outside on benches or the store's wooden porch to enjoy  the cold drinks.

            "I come in here every year," said Hope Carter, 17, "It brings back childhood memories of bazooka gum when I was five. It's like walking back into an antique store - homey."

            I took Georgia history a few years ago and it's nice firsthand to come and see what it is like and how people went about their business back then," said Steven Harvey, also 17. "Like without air conditioning and the appliances we have these days. The prices (back then) are good, too."

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