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Georgia National Fair: 25th Anniversary


By Linda Van Slyke

Photo courtesy of Dave Stewart

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Folks at the Georgia National Fair sure know how to celebrate a quarter-century of success. Stacy Campbell, Director of Communications, explained that this year's 25th-anniversary theme was "Georgia Grown."  

Campbell added, "We showcased agricultural highlights from the entire state.  For example, our livestock program brought in competitors from pretty much every county.  Our Georgia Living Program included arts and crafts from all around.  We even had a WOW! Wednesday, featuring a free Ricky Skaggs concert."

Record-Breaking Year
The Georgia National Fair built this exciting 25th-year celebration, and the people came in record numbers.  A press release sent by Campbell stPhoto By Dave Stewartated that the "2014 Georgia National Fair will hit the record books as the second largest in the organization's history."

What this means is that attendance reached 456,023 this year, up 1.4% over last year's fair.  Three record days of attendance were also set, from Tuesday, October 7th through Thursday, October 9th.

Organizers attributed this excellent turnout to "a combination of weather, planning and leadership."  Excellent weather conditions prevailed throughout the 11-day run.  Planners were careful to include a wide variety of attractions.  Leaders ensured that fairgoers received "over $600,000 of free concerts, exhibits, and shows."

Leadership was largely provided by members of the Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority.

Executive Director Randy Moore explained, "The members of the Authority deserve due credit for providing excellent guidance and support to each department, which resulted in a seamless and successful fair."

Location, location, location also counts for a lot.  Campbell stated, "We're located right on I-75, south of Atlanta, just two miles from the historic downtown section of Perry, Georgia.  Perry is a picturesque community with great restaurants, boutiques, and a courthouse square."

Marketing, of course, was also instrumental in attracting throngs of fairgoers.  Campbell said, "We engaged in a statewide media campaign that included TV, radio, print, billboards, contests, and a Facebook page with about 35,000 followers."

Campbell concluded, "We are still the best value that you can possibly get for your money.  Kids 10 and under (when accompanied by a paying adult) are admitted for free, parking is always free, military personnel and their immediate family members are admitted for free during two of the days, and there are discounts galore."  

Never a Dull Moment
Let's face it, people don't come to the fair to twiddle their thumbs.  Fairgoers expect quality entertainment, and the Georgia National Fair more than delivers.  This year's free entertainment ranged anywhere from strolling acts such as the Tree of Life and Ed & Geraldine's Old-Time Music to stage acts such as keyboardist Leon Jacobs and Rumba Latina.  

Campbell explained that the Tree of Life has been with the fair "for several years."  She added, "He's very tall and grabs your attention immediately with a roaming entertainment that lasted for all 11 days."  According to the fair's website, the Tree of Life provides "portable shade" and tells "stories of the woods, as ONLY a tree can..."

Campbell also mentioned that Wild About Monkeys (trained baboons), Robinson's Racing Pigs (each and every year), Purgatory Iron Works (a blacksmith educator), and the Nightly Fireworks were particular crowd pleasers.

Mutton Bustin' is swiftly gaining popularity.  The website describes this as an event in which "boys and girls ages four to seven, weighing less than 60 pounds, try to ride a sheep for a full six seconds!"  Campbell adds, "We were actually the first fair to request that they ride on sand in order to protect the kids if they fall.  The kids also wear a helmet and a protective vest."

Reithoffer Shows of Gibsonton, Florida has been providing the Georgia National Fair's midway for the entire 25 years. Campbell said that there's about "50 rides, with four new Super Spectaculars."   She said that the Airway, which "simulates being in an airplane," was a real favorite.

Popular new foods included Fastball Flatbreads.  Campbell explained, "They are the official Atlanta Braves concessionaires and brought two Braves alumni (Javy Lopez and Ryan Klesko) with them this year to sign autographs.  That went over real well with the crowd." 

"As for the Sirloin Tips at Frazier's Fine Foods?  I ate my weight in them!" Campbell confessed.

Everything Georgia
Pretty much everyone's heard of Eggland's Best.  This popular company was started by James Eugene ("Gene") Sutherland, once Georgia's largest egg producer.  Campbell explained that Sutherland simply began by "pulling a wagon with eggs in back of it."

Hailing from the Atlanta area, Sutherland has been a key influence at the Georgia National Fair for the past 25 years.  He, as well as the rest of the outstanding team, have been integrally involved in the Georgia Grown initiative.  "We have amazing leadership!" Campbell happily exclaimed.

According to the website, the fair's Georgia Grown building combines "agricultural products, services and education" in a way that enables families to "gain a better understanding of what agriculture means to Georgia.  

The Georgia Grown Pavilion features "unique Georgia made products such as delectable jams and jellies, nuts, baked goods, and delicious sauces and relishes."  Campbell stated that these exhibits highlight "different farmers throughout the state, some with 100-year-old farms."

As part of the fair's Georgia National Schoolhouse, students from districts throughout the state "attend livestock and horse shows, the award-winning Stories of Agriculture displays and so many more educational exhibits."  Campbell noted that "about 13,000 kids came through the Schoolhouse program this year."

Awards Galore
Events in America cites the many honors that the Georgia National Fair has received over the years.  It has won "89 awards from the International Association of Fairs and Expositions for its livestock and horse events, competitive exhibits, and communications programs."  

This fair has been within the Southeast Tourism Society's "Top 20 Events for October" 13 times, and has also been "designated a 'Top 50 Fair' by Amusement Business magazine and Carnival Warehouse."

In addition, Georgia National Fair received the 1997 "Special Events Directory and Events Business News Top 200 Event" award, as well a 2002 Southern Living magazine "First-Prize Fair" award.  

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