The cooking is slow at Gabby’s Kitchen, one of the food vendors at this week’s Georgia State Fair.
Unfortunately, so is business.
“Hopefully it will pick up this weekend and save us,” Jim Lora said Thursday while tending the chicken kabobs and turkey legs slow-roasting on the Gabby’s grill. “There’s been a lot of vendors who have pulled out. Some of us are sticking it out.”
The drop-off is not surprising, considering the fair for decades had been held in the fall, said Billy Tucker of Dixieland Carnival Co., who is managing the midway at Central City Park.
The fair’s sponsor, the Exchange Club of Macon, moved the event to the spring to avoid going head to head again with the Georgia National Fair in Perry.“It’s been a little slow but not bad. It’s a turnover year, moving to the spring and not having it last year,” Tucker said. “Perry was really killing it. This fair needed to move to the spring.”
Matt Williams, an airbrush artist from Florida who travels to about 35 carnivals each year, said the economy is hurting vendors, and not just in Macon.
“It’s been tough everywhere,” he said. “People can’t afford to spend a lot of money at the fair. ... Things will pick back up. The first weekend, people weren’t used to the fair being in the spring.”
The pitchmen at the Cellular Sales-Verizon Wireless booth were having better luck. “We got free phones over here, guys!” Trey Swain called out to two men, who came over for a listen.
The cell-phone sales crew estimated they were “touching” 65 percent to 85 percent of the crowd.
“It does help that we’re a big business,” Swain said, “and we’re giving away phones.”
Gabby’s is in its 14th year at the fair. Lora, who said he’s traveled to numerous carnivals and some NASCAR events, estimated that he’s seen a 40 percent drop in business. Monday’s rain-out and the hot days that have followed, along with the date change, have kept crowds away, he said.
“This has probably been one of the worst I’ve worked so far.”
Tucker, the midway manager, said he believes better days are ahead.
“It’s never going to be Perry, but it’s going to be a nice spring fair,” he said. “It’s Macon’s fair.”