A Brief History of Our Fair
The Statesboro Kiwanis Club 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 committment at the time, considering that gasoline was 30 cents a gallon and a postage stamp cost 3 cents.
In 1962 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 1964 fair was even bigger and was held in a peanut field at the corner of West Main and Stockyard Road. A hurricane came through and damaged some of the exhibits. A few days later the site was cleaned up and the damage repaired and they went on to have another successful fair.
The Statesboro Kiwanis Club decided that they wanted the fair to become an annual event, but they knew that they needed a permanent location for it. In 1965 they purchased a 28 acre peanut field on Georgia Highway 67 for that purpose, again borrowing the money to buy the land.
Over the years the fair grew larger and larger. More land was purchased and additional land was rented to accommodate the larger fair and the ever increasing numbers of people attending. Club members have constructed and maintained buildings and made a series of improvements year by year. For example, the Pancake House was constructed in 1969 and has become a major draw for patrons wanting fresh sausage and fluffy pancakes with homemade cane syrup.
From these humble beginnings came what is today the Kiwanis-Ogeechee Fair, a huge seven county agricultural fair attended by tens of thousands of people. One indication of how much the fair has grown over the years is the gate receipts. In 1965 the club's gate receipts for the fair were $7,600. In 2007 the gate receipts were $171,000.
The fair brings several hundreds of thousands of dollars into the community. The money goes directly back into the community through donations, sponsorships, scholarships and more. Donations have been made to local law enforcement agencies for drug education programs and free fingerprint programs. Donations have also been made to Hospice, Habitat for Humanity, scholarships for Georgia Southern University students, boys and girls clubs, boys homes, American Red Cross. local schools, and a variety of other projects.