Georgia State Fair returns to Macon

pramati@macon.comMay 1, 2013 

It will be a smaller Georgia State Fair that kicks off its festivities Thursday.

The scaled-back fair runs through Sunday, giving people just four days to enjoy the rides and partake in the fare. That’s a big change from last year when the fair lasted 10 days.

In addition, there’s no live music acts this time around. Last year, the Marshall Tucker Band was the headliner.

Nick Harmeier, vice president of business development for Universal Fairs -- which recently bought the state fair from the Macon Exchange Club -- said his company’s priority is making sure the event is enjoyable for everyone.

Last year’s state fair drew about 40,000 people over the 10 days, which was a mixed indicator of success. That was about 5,000 better than any of the three previous state fairs, but organizers had hoped for a crowd of 50,000 or more.

“It’s pretty much the same thing we do with every fair we do,” he said. “We try to do it bigger and better. ... (Success) is not always measured in attendance. If the feedback is positive, that’s what we measure our events by.”

Universal Fairs last year pointed to two factors that impacted attendance -- unusually warm temperatures and a performance of the Navy Blue Angels at an air show at Robins Air Force Base during one of the fair’s weekends.

While temperatures should be relatively mild through this weekend, there’s a chance of rain each day through Sunday, which could affect attendance numbers.

“Hopefully, the weather will hold out for us,” Harmeier said.

Following last spring’s fair in Macon, Universal Fairs added a fall version that ran last November at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton.

The historic fair began in 1846 in Stone Mountain and moved to Macon’s Central City Park in 1871. The Exchange Club took over the fair’s operation in 1942 before Universal Fairs bought it and operated it for the first time last year.

People who run various food and games booths at the fair said Wednesday as they were setting up that the Georgia State Fair is one of the better ones they’ve seen. One of the main draws is having it at Central City Park.

“I like it,” said Lonnie Fannie, of Phenix City, Ala., who runs a food booth. “It’s been a good fair to me. It’s a nice setting in the park. Usually, we’re in a park someplace. ... I just came from a fair that was in a gravel pit. I had mud up to my ankles.”Anita Wollen of Logan, Ohio, who runs a novelties booth, came for the first time last year and said it’s worth coming back for.

“I liked it last year,” she said. “I just wish it was 10 days (because it might rain). As far as attendance and the people, the people are very nice and respectful. It’s a good location, since we were coming back from Florida on the way back home.”

Harmeier said there’s enough going on that it’s worth it for families to stop by. One of this year’s changes is free parking.

“It’s a really big deal to try to create the right atmosphere,” he said. “It’s going to take a couple of years to build up. The highlight is always the rides, the food. Just from the atmosphere alone, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

For more information about the Georgia State Fair, visit www.macon.georgiastatefair.org.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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