Fair History

History of the

Kiwanis Spalding County Fair

 

In 1946 the Kiwanis Club of Griffin needed a project to raise finances to help serve the community.  In October of 1946, Frank Aiken visited  the Kiwanis Club of Henry County and brought back the idea of a Griffin Kiwanis sponsored county fair.  The idea was well received by the Board of Directors in November.  In January, 1947, the new board, under the leadership of President C.B. Dexter, decided to sponsor the Spalding County Fair.

The first fair manager was George Gaissert, assisted by N.V. Davis, Herman Nelson, Wallace Bailey, E.F. Savage, and Fred Newman.  Tents were rented and set up to house the exhibits at the racetrack in the city park.  A net profit of $1,800.00 was realized.  The fund was spent quickly by the money-starved Kiwanis Club on worthwhile community projects.  The result was that George Gaissert, again had to finance the cost of putting on the second fair.

The 1948 fair was held on the airport property. The airport hangar and tents were used since there were no permanent buildings. 1948 netted a $2,400.00 profit.

In 1949, under the leadership of President John Walton, permanent buildings were started on the present site, and improvements have continued to be made each year. The original Kiwanis and 4-H food booths were wooden with saw-dust floors. The Korn Dawg stand was an open shed with a two-eye gas burner. The flower show was in the building that we now use for needle work,4-H exhibits and the art show, it had a turntable used for exhibits by the Griffin Federated Garden Clubs.

In 1951 the 4-H food booth was first used. The livestock building was constructed this year. The 1952 fair was highlighted by the biggest livestock show ever held at the fair.

In 1953 the concrete block exhibit building was built.  This was the first year that an automobile was given away at the fair. It is also the only year that the fair failed to return a profit. That year there was no day during the fair week that it did not rain. This forced each member of the club to sign a personal bond to underwrite the cost of the buildings constructed that year.  That year there was no day during the fair week that it did not rain. The Board of Directors of the Kiwanis Club, following this financial disaster, wisely saw to it that the debt was repaid from fair profits, and a nest egg set up to take care of any future financial loss due to inclement weather.

One of the original buildings was the Youth Building which housed the 4-H poultry show before moving it to the livestock bam.

In 1964 a new Korn Dawg stand, a new 4-H food booth, and the steel canopy over the outdoor stage were built.

The 1966 fair was named “Best Overall Small Fair in Georgia” by the Georgia Association Agricultural Fairs.

The flag pole was dedicated in 1968.

In 1970,the entire club membership worked at the fair.

In 1980, we built the metal building closest to the airport for the flower show.

Over the years, fair ground improvements include midway extension, improved parking facilities and access roads, a covered outdoor stage, track for truck pull contests, enclosed needlework exhibit space, TV lounge in the back of the food booth and more.

The Kiwaniannes enlarged their Korn Dawg stand in 1989 to almost twice it original size.

During 1991 the fair ground facilities continued to be improved.  Vinyl siding was placed on all three exhibit buildings at a cost of approximately $10,000.00, and most of the plumbing was replaced throughout the fair grounds at a cost of $4,780.00.

During the summer of 1994 an $8,000.00 lighted sign was placed outside the Kiwanis Fair Grounds with the Kiwanis International emblem.  The sign continued to be an asset to the community by advertising upcoming community events.

The 1994 Fair was a total rain out, but thanks to Belle City Amusements, who were able to rearrange the schedule, we were able to continue the Fair for a second week.  This enabled us to pay our bills and support our service projects for the 1994-95 administrative year.

Beginning with the 1995 Fair, it became a scheduled nine-day event which opens on Thursday of one week and continues through Saturday of the following week (excluding Sunday).    In 2006 the Club membership voted to open the Fair on Sunday and in 2014 the first Thursday was dropped, making us again a nine day Fair.

Over 50,000 people attended the 2002 fair.

The livestock building was destroyed by a wind storm in December 2004.

In April 2005, a new long term 30 year lease was signed between the City of Griffin and the Kiwanis Fair Association, Inc.  As a result of this lease, Fair Manager Bill Wages and a specially appointed ad hoc committee began making plans for building a large, all weather building to be constructed where the “live stock” building had stood for many years.  The Kiwanis Club of Griffin is blessed with talented and dedicated members who do most of the work on improving the facilities at the Fair Grounds. Most of the interior work on the Center was done by Kiwanis Club of Griffin members.

The Kiwanis of Griffin Center was first used for stage entertainment at the 2009 Fair.   The Kiwanis Club of Griffin weekly meetings have been held in the Kiwanis of Griffin center since September of 2010.  The Center was made available for rent to the general public for weddings, parties, gun shows, and so forth since the spring of 2011 and has rapidly become the place for these types of events. The Center being enjoyed by various groups in the community.

Through the years new ticket booths have been constructed and improvements to existing structures continue every year.

 

The first 9 fair managers of the fair were:

George Gassiert

Otis Weaver

Larry Ballard

Mac Baird

Tom Boggess

Jack Smith

Bob Lewis

Jet Russell

Bill Wages

 

In 2015 we upgraded our sign out front to a programable digital sign.

 

In 2016, our fair and fairground was used to film a segment for the 20th Century Fox movie Diary of a Wimpy Kid. 20th Century Fox paid us $45,000.

 

For many years the Boy Scouts have used our fairgrounds for Camporees, day camps and various other activities.

 

Our fairgrounds has hosted Farm Day where about 900 first graders would be shown examples of farming activities.

In 2017 ,2018,and 2020 we began the Associated General Contractors used our fairgrounds for their High School Skills Challenge where high school students compete in various construction skills.

The Salvation Army uses 2 our building to organize the Angel Tree Project.

The Fair Grounds continuously change to meet the needs of the Fair, the Kiwanis Club of Griffin, and the community.  As an example, the old truck pull track has been converted to a 4-H Horse Arena that is used by the Spalding County 4-H Club. The arena has been used during the fair for lawn mower races beginning  in 2017.

Beginning 2018 Fair, Kiwanis of Griffin took over operation of the Bingo Booth at the Fair.

In 2018 we began subletting our food booth, first to New Salem Baptist Church, then in 2020 to Rhino’s Pig Pit.

In 2019 Belle City Amusements did not show up for the fair, but sent another smaller group to take their place.

For 73 years, the Kiwanis Fair Association rented the fairgrounds from the city as it was considered part of the airport property.  On Tuesday, May 5, 2020, the Kiwanis of Griffin Foundation became the owners of our fairgrounds.

 

2020-The year of Covid -19. Following the guidelines of the Governor’s Executive Order, we had a successful fair. We moved our fair a week earlier to get ahead of competing fairs and the school system fall break.”Modern Midways” became our new carnival provider. The Kiwaniannes were unable to provide their famous Korn Dawg. We added a demolition derby, an antique tractor show and a Jeep show and drag race. We brought back the lawn mower races,chain saw artist, 4-H exhibits,needlework exhibits,pig races and petting zoo. The Lions Club and Daybreak Rotary assisted with ticket sales and ticket taking at the gates.

2021 will be the 75th anniversary of the Kiwanis Spalding County Fair.

 

Kiwanis members volunteer over 3,000 hours every year maintaining the property, preparing for the fair, selling and taking tickets, parking cars, and managing the operations of the Fair.

Seventy five plus years of community service projects have been financed from the proceeds of the Kiwanis sponsored Spalding County Fair.

The Kiwanis Club of Griffin is made up of 120 members, all volunteers dedicated to community service. Over the past 74 years, the Kiwanis volunteers have built an infrastructure on this property valued at over $1.5 million. The property is used continuously for community activities. The Fair and Pancake Day are our two main fundraisers. All proceeds are retuned to the community.