Georgia State Fair postponed until spring 2010

Georgia State Fair officials said Thursday that they plan to move the annual festival in Macon’s Central City Park to the spring to avoid competing with the Georgia National Fair in Perry.

“We were either on the heels of or just in front of the Georgia National Fair, and neither of those times were profitable for us,” said Rollin Middlebrooks, president of the state fair’s board of directors. “There’s just so much money to be spent. If we move it to the spring, we’ll eliminate the competition.”

The move means there will be no fair this fall.

“We’re not going to try to plan for two fairs that close together,” Middlebrooks said. “We’ve got to get sponsors and vendors and that kind of thing.

The postponed 154th Georgia State Fair, however, will return with an expanded schedule. The fair will run 10 days, rather than seven, beginning April 29, 2010, according to plans.

“If it rains, we’ll have another weekend,” Middlebrooks said.

The new dates were chosen so the fair wouldn’t interfere with the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in March.

“As long as it doesn’t conflict with any of our other events, we would feel very positive in supporting it,” said Sonya Rice of the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The fair has generated more than $5 million for the community in the 67 years it’s been managed by the Macon Exchange Club, fair marketing director Betsy Yates said. That includes $4.3 million spent and given away by the club and another $1 million in estimated revenue generated by civic groups, churches and other organizations that operate booths at the fair, according to the fair’s Web site.

A portion of the fair’s proceeds is given each year to the city of Macon for use and maintenance of Central City Park, and some of it is kept to plan and run the fair and to keep an office open year-round, Middlebrooks said. The club has paid the city more than $700,000 for its use of the park.

Most of the revenue is given to various charitable organizations in Bibb County, Middlebrooks said.

“You name it,” he said, “and we’ve given money to it.”

Due to scheduling conflicts, a new company, Wade Shows, will provide the midway rides and attractions, he said.

Yates said competition with the Perry fair was not the only factor in the decision to reschedule to the springtime.

“The weather’s nice. There’s a whole lot of things that come under consideration,” she said.

“This fair has survived the Civil War and the Great Depression, and we’re looking forward to continuing to have a great fair.”

To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.