The fair is coming to town and it is truly “Big Fun.” When the fair opens today, it will mark the 95th consecutive year of the Georgia-Carolina State Fair. Chartered in August 1923, the Exchange Club of Augusta quickly jumped at the opportunity when the Savannah Valley Association of Agricultural Clubs decided to abandon its plans for a Fall Agricultural Fair. On Oct. 3, 1923, the Exchange Club met and voted to take on the fair as a project. By Oct. 11, the club announced the famous Johnny J. Jones Exposition Company was coming to Augusta for one week, Nov. 12th to the 19th.
A parade was organized to celebrate the opening. This spectacle on Broad Street drew a crowd of over 25,000 persons who lined the sidewalks to see this grand parade march to the newly chosen site for the fair at the lower end of Greene Street. Each day of the fair was dedicated to a different theme, such as merchants, farmers, children, Augusta and everyone. The entire production was a smashing success, especially considering it was taken from being merely an idea to becoming a huge production, all within the span of six weeks.
I am lucky enough to be a part of this annual fair by being on the Livestock Committee. Youth from ages 4 to 19 come from all over the southeast to participate. Our shows consist of four categories of livestock animals: beef cattle, dairy cows, pigs and goats. These kids (and animals) who come to Augusta for the week are amazing to watch.
The Exchange Club has a large livestock barn with an entrance across from Magnolia Cemetery on Third Street. A day or two before their show, contestants trailer their animals to the fairgrounds, unload and bring them to the barn. A Georgia Department of Agriculture agent will check the animal’s health records and physically examine them. When given the OK to enter the barn, the kids bring their show animals to their assigned location in the barn for anyone attending the fair to see. They set up their camp with feed, grooming supplies, halters, fans, chairs and start getting ready for the big event.
The shows are divided into two basic types: Showmanship, which entails showing how good of a handler the youth are, and Best of Show, which is all about the animal. Showmanship is broken down into various age groups and is a blast to watch. Each kid dresses nicely and introduces their animal into the show ring, making sure they maintain eye contact with the judge at all times. The handler of the animal is supposed to maintain control of the livestock and be ready to have its walking direction changed at the nod of the judge. The judge may also stop each participant and ask questions about the animal like date of birth, weight or mother’s name. Winning the Showmanship event is what seems to drive these young handlers. The winner’s prize is a giant belt buckle (which is usually put on their belt immediately), a ribbon and some spending money.
The other part of the livestock show is the actual showing of the animal itself. The animals are usually divided up by categories of age, breed and weight. When these show animals are presented, the judges look for the structure of the animal’s body, straightness of their back, muscle tone, gait and general appearance relative to age. Ribbons and money are awarded for the best of category. And even more for Best of Show and Grand Champion.
Make a trip down to check out the Livestock Show. These kids work hard to raise, feed, groom, vet and train these animals for our annual show. You won’t be disappointed.
The Georgia-Carolina State Fair returns to the Exchange Club Fairgrounds, 308 Hale St., for a nine-day run beginning today. Gates will open at 5 p.m. weekdays, and at noon Saturdays and Sundays through Oct. 22.
Livestock shows include: the Beef Cattle Show at 2 p.m. Saturday; the Swine Show at 2 p.m. Wednesday; the Goat Show at 3 p.m. Friday; the Dairy Show at 2 p.m. Oct. 21.
Fair admission is $6; visit georgiacarolinastatefair.com.