The Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair is an annual agricultural fair hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro. The purpose of the fair is to bring a fun filled event to the seven-county area surrounding Bulloch County while raising money to give back to the communities that the fair serves. The fair brings carnival rides and midway games together with local food vendors, local business booths, live entertainment and agricultural history as well as livestock shows. 2021 will mark the 59th Annual Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair. Our current club members and the community at large owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Kiwanians that came before us, in developing and nurturing this great fund-raiser over the past six decades.
was chartered in 1960 with 28 members. One of the objectives of the club was community service. Approximately a year and a half later a Georgia Teachers College (now Georgia Southern University) professor asked the club to come up with $3,000 in matching funds so he could accept a $30,000 grant to help with student projects. The Statesboro Kiwanis Club agreed, and each member signed a bank note for the full amount. It represented a substantial commitment at the time, considering that gasoline was 30 cents a gallon and a postage stamp cost 3 cents.
The B’s Old Reliable Carnival came to Statesboro and asked the Jaycees Club to sponsor the carnival. The carnival’s scheduled appearance in Evans County had been cancelled and they were looking for another place. Tal Calloway suggested they contact the new Statesboro Kiwanis Club. The carnival offered the club 5 cents for every 15-cent ride they sold. The club made a counter offer in which local businesses give away “free” ride tickets and the carnival would only charge 10 cents per ride with the tickets. The businesses would receive free publicity for giving away carnival ride tickets. The carnival agreed and soon rides were set up wherever space allowed around the city. Statesboro and Bulloch County citizens enjoyed the impromptu “fair”.
The following year, 1963, some city officials complained and the Statesboro mayor denied the traveling carnival permission to hold the fair inside the city limits. Statesboro Kiwanis club members felt that they owed it to the community who could not travel to larger fairs across the state to host a local alternative. Also, kids didn’t have a local venue for showing off livestock they had raised, and members felt they needed that opportunity. Bulloch County Commissioners agreed and gave permission to proceed. A traveling carnival plus a livestock show equals a fair! The fair was held at Parker’s Stockyard on Stockyard Road, just 50 yards outside the city limits. There was an office, restrooms, stalls; a great location for a fair. This was the first real fair, held on October 14, 1963.
The proceeds from that first fair enabled the club to repay the bank note for their first community service project. They celebrated with a note-burning ceremony on South Main Street in the Mrs. Bryant’s Kitchen parking lot.
The six-day event is hosted during the third week of October at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds on Highway 67 in Statesboro, Georgia. In the weeks leading up to the event, students participating in 4-H in Bulloch, Screven, Candler, Evans, Tattnall, Jenkins and Bryan counties prepare entries for the mini-booth competition. On the weekend prior to the fair, entries are received from local individuals in the following categories: produce, baked goods, canning and arts and crafts.
Each June, Kiwanians present livestock to children who have applied to receive an animal. Children can receive chicks, goats, hogs, or lambs. The children must keep detailed records and take care of the animals. They show the animals at livestock shows around the area and are required to show the animal at the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair’s livestock shows. The program allows students to receive animals that they might not otherwise be able to afford.
In 2020, the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro’s Fair Committee voted to extend the county coverage for the livestock shows and program, Miss Kiwanis Fair Pageant, 4H mini-booths, arts and crafts and produce and baking entries to an additional eight counties.
The 15-county coverage area now includes: Bulloch, Screven, Candler, Evans, Tattnall, Jenkins, Bryan, Emanuel, Burke, Toombs, Wayne, Effingham, Long, Treutlen and Laurens.
In August 2020, amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Fair Committee made the difficult decision to cease planning and preparation for the 59th Annual Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair that was planned for October 19-24, 2020. The difficult decision was driven by the impact of COVID-19 and the desire to do what was best for fair volunteers, fair vendors, and fair-goers. Hosting a fair that would meet CDC and State regulations would not have produced an event that would live up to the high standards that Kiwanians set for the success, safety and fun for each year’s Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair.
Planning for the 2021 Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair started in January 2021, and the Fair Committee looks to transfer their hard work from 2020 to 2021 and hopes to expand the fair to be even better than they’d hoped for in 2020.