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Carnival & Fair News
Carnival & Fair News
Georgia / South Carolina - Successful Trade Show sells out
Monday, February 26, 2018
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The 6th edition of the joint South Carolina and Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs Convention took place January 25th-27th, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Atlanta Perimeter. The decision to join the South Carolina and Georgia fairs conventions was made over 6 years ago by the two state's respective governing bodies in order to provide better educational opportunities to their members. General Manager of the Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs, Johnny Webb, says the decision to combine was beneficial for both organizations. 

"This year's convention turned out very well. We're all very pleased with it," says Webb. About 400 people were in attendance this year and the trade show was completely sold out. Representatives from 26 of the 30 Georgia fairs and 8 South Carolina fairs made up the 400 attendees. There were about 44 exhibitors in the trade show, space was so coveted that some booths were doubled up. "Some people who are friends in the industry allowed another company to exhibit in their booths with them. I didn't mind that at all," says Webb.

Next year, Webb and other board members of both South Carolina and Georgia's associations of fairs are planning to expand the trade show. "We're already planning to move into the adjoining room in the hotel that we use for educational classes. We tried expanding the trade show last year but some exhibitors ended up in another room that was completely separate from the main trade show area. Those people were not very happy and if they're not happy we're not happy," says Webb. 

The convention featured two keynote speakers: Marla Calico, President of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions and Roxie Mayberry who was formerly with the Alaska State Fair. Calico's talk was entitled "Life Is Full of Ifs," she travelled to several fair conventions across the U.S. with this particular speech. Mayberry's speech was called "Perception Is Reality." Both speeches were received very well and got glowing remarks from attendees, said Webb. 

In addition to the two keynote speeches, the convention hosted 4 different educational workshops. The first was called "Don't Put All Of Your Eggs In One Basket," the presentation was given by Todd Miller from the North Georgia Fair. The second was entitled "Volunteers, Plans, Pitfalls, and Best Practices," which was a talk given by Marla Calico. The third was "Giving Back To The Community," which was moderated by a panel of fair managers from both South Carolina and Georgia fairs. The fourth was called "Creating a Sustainable Sponsorship Program," which was conducted by Roxie Mayberry. Three of the four workshops were more of a presentation format with a question and answer session after while the "Giving Back To The Community" session was more of a roundtable format with 4 fair manager moderators. The panel included Nancy Smith from the South Carolina State Fair, Jerry Pitts from the Coastal Carolina Fair, Michael Lariscy from the Coastal Empire Fair, and Skip Nichols from the Exchange Club Fair of Southwest Georgia. 

After meals, Variety Attractions and Fusion Talent Group sponsored entertainment showcases for attendees to enjoy. On Saturday night, the Georgia and South Carolina Associations of Fairs held their joint banquet. During dinner, convention-goers were entertained by a gospel singing group that received great reveiews, according to Webb. Also on Saturday night, the 2018 Miss Georgia Fairs Pageant was held. This year's winner is Emma Webb from the Georgia/Carolina Fair held in Augusta, Georgia. Emma was chosen from a pool of 10 contestants who competed on Saturday night. 

The Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs was able to give out 3 separate scholarships to well-deserving young people. Two of the scholarships were award to people who have membership in 4-H or FFA organizations in Georgia and have been participating in fairs through the 4-H and FFA programming. One scholarship was given to a young man to help him with college expenses. 

Several awards were also presented during the busy convention weekend. Paul Smith from the Coosa Valley Fair in Rome, Georgia received the 2018 Georgia Fair Man of the Year award. "Paul has been involved in the fair for 63 years and has served in many capacities including President of the Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs in 1976," says Webb. J.P. Baehr from the Piedmont Interstate Fair in Spartansburg, South Carolina won the 2018 South Carolina Fair Man of the Year award. Baehr is presently Vice President of the South Carolina Association of Fairs. The Western Carolina State Fair (SC) and Columbia County Fair (GA) each won the Best Marketing Campaign award for 2018. "Numerous other marketing and advertising awards were given out during the convention," says Webb. 

In addition to educational seminars, banquets, and awards, both the South Carolina and Georgia Associations of Fairs each had their own business meeting during the weekend. The Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs also held an auction and a 50/50 drawing to raise money. Webb said the fundraisers did very well this year; the auction took in $5,600 and the 50/50 raffle raised about $1,000. 

"Paul Winters from the South Carolina Association of Fairs and Michael Larescy from the Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs said that the convention met its goals and provided numerous educational opportunities for its members and attendees," says Webb. This was the 6th year that the Georgia and South Carolina fairs conventions have been held together, following South Carolina's break with North Carolina after holding a joint convention for many years. Every third year, the Georgia/South Carolina convention meets in South Carolina. "Next year the convention will be in Atlanta again and then the year after it will be held in South Carolina. Everybody thinks it really helps both associations to join the conventions," says Webb. 

While Webb had a big hand in organizing this year's convention, he gives credit to the help he receives from board members of both the Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs and the South Carolina Association of Fairs. Webb is a Certified Fair Executive (CFE) but has retired from his fair position and now serves as the General Manager of the Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs. Webb and the rest of the board members meet 3-4 times throughout the year. 

"We've already started planning the 2019 convention. We immediately get feedback from attendees to see what they're interested in having next year. The Georgia and South Carolina Associations have a joint board meeting right after the convention ends to do a recap and have a constructive conversation about the year," says Webb. The 2019 combined Georgia and South Carolina Association of Fairs Convention will be held January 24th-26th, 2019.

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