Crowds still strong at Ga. National Fair

pramati@macon.comOctober 7, 2012 

PERRY -- While still well within the range of previous years, attendance at the 23rd Georgia National Fair is slightly down after the opening weekend.

Michele Treptow blames the forecast for great weather through the end of the festival.

Though it seems counter-intuitive, Treptow, who is director of communications for the fair, said she thinks because the weather has been great so far and should continue to be so through Oct. 14, there’s less pressure for people to show up early because they are afraid of bad weather occurring later in the week.

“We have such a great forecast for all 11 days that there’s really not a rush to come out,” she said.

Still, she said the number of those who did show up for the first weekend is “well within the normal range.” Attendance figures for the first weekend won’t be available until Monday.

Treptow said Saturday night’s concert, featuring former “American Idol” singer Kellie Pickler and Joe Nichols, didn’t sell out. In previous years, bigger-name acts such as Blake Shelton last year and Miranda Lambert the year before sold out the fair’s 8,000-seat venue easily.

“Maybe it was name recognition,” she said. “It’s tough, because (each year) you have to find acts that are available and that are within our price range. But people enjoyed the show -- they had a good time.”

People also seemed to be enjoying the plethora of rides, food, merchandisers and attractions this year’s fair has to offer.

“We’ve gone for years,” said Ashley Harris, of Montezuma, who was at a picnic table Sunday with her husband, Charlton, and their daughters Aria, 9, and Jasmine, 4. “We love the rides. It’s great for a family outing.”

Treptow said the fair has added new attractions and acts, such as Washboard Willy, the Tree of Life and Mango & Dango, which wander around the fairgrounds to entertain rather than stay in one spot.

Another recent event that has been added is an annual showdown between lawmakers from the state House and Senate in a livestock competition. Five-member teams from the House and the Semate team up with local Future Farmers of America for the showdown, which was won by House members for the second straight year.

Of course, it’s the competition among schools across the state with 4-H and FFA clubs where the main livestock competition draws the crowds.

Gregory Deloach, a senior at Putnam County High School, said he’s competed at the Georgia National Fair eight times and it’s his favorite competition.

“It’s a really high-paying show with a lot of good competition,” said Deloach, who added he plans to take over his family’s dairy business after he graduates at the end of the school year. “You can relax, have fun, show your animals. ... I’d rank it as No. 1 -- it’s one everyone really looks forward to.”

The fair also provides a venue for artists and craftsmen to compete for ribbons in a variety of mediums beyond more conventional ones such as painting or woodworking. For example Sunday about 26 competitors took part in a soap-carving contest, in which participants had one hour to sculpt something out of an Ivory bar of soap.

The winners were displayed in the Miller-Murphy-Howard Building on the fairgrounds, along with entries in sewing, flower arranging, photography and other forms of artwork.

Much like the families that visit year after year because of previous positive experiences, so too do the merchants come back.

Tom Sattler, of Fort Myers, Fla., who has two booths that sell handmade belts, buckles and cowboy hats at the fair, said it’s one of the best-run events he attends each year.

“It’s just the family atmosphere and clientele,” he said. “They’ve got very good crowds here, and some of the nicest crowds in the southeastern U.S. It’s like the Disneyland of fairs.”

Heather Sattler said they usually employee Middle Georgians each year to help them run the booths.

“This is one of those events where the employees are truly like an extension of our family,” she said.

For more information about the fair, visit www.georgianationalfair.com.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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