Georgia National Fair marks 30th anniversary
Thirty falls after the Georgia National Fair (GNF) opened its gates for the first time in October 1990, the agricultural extravaganza continues! Children born that year are now bringing their families to the state fair in Perry to continue a family tradition.
State leaders and members of Georgia's ag community celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fair during opening ceremonies held Oct. 3.
Gov. Brian Kemp shared memories of he and his wife, Marty, coming to the fair with their three daughters to compete in lamb shows.
“Marty and I have spent many years in the barns with our kids showing lambs. We’ve been here when it’s been really hot and really cold. It makes me feel good to see the kids out in the barn. I’ve enjoyed taking pictures with them in their dirty t-shirts and their hair messed up,” Kemp said. “I encourage everyone to come support the fair and the Georgia Grown Building. We have so many things to be thankful for in our state and this is one of them.”
Foster Rhodes, a 30-year member of the Agricultural Exposition Authority (AEA), which oversees the fairgrounds and agricenter, thanked the Georgia Legislature for its continued support of the fair and facility.
“We’re very blessed to have a state legislature that supports our mission of educating and supporting youth programs through the fair and this facility,” said Rhodes, who chairs the AEA. “It doesn’t seem like it’s been 30 years but time flies when you’re having fun!”
Rep. David Ralston, Georgia Speaker of the House, was among the state legislators attending the celebration.
“Agriculture is the number one industry in our state and this is a celebration of what you do,” Ralston said.
“This is our 30th year, so we have a lot to celebrate,” said GNF & Agricenter Executive Director Stephen Shimp.
Shimp recognized Pat Alligood, Cindy Bellew, George Neal and Richard Scuderi – the GNFA’s four 30-year employees. Vendors who have participated in all 30 fairs were also honored. These include: Reithoffer Shows, Concessions by Cox, Gabby’s, Granny's Apple Dumplings, the Honeybee Story, Perfection Confection, Robinson's Racing Pigs, and VFW Post 6126.
Rhodes and Shimp both thanked the Perry City Council and Houston County Commissioners for purchasing the property where the GNFA is located and donating it to the state of Georgia.
“It was a really exciting time back then when we knew we had a chance to get it [the fairgrounds and Agricenter],” recalled Ralph Gentry, who was serving on the Perry City Council in the late 1980s when the council and county commission put in a bid to secure the facility.
Gentry called Perry lawyer Tom Daniels a “driving force” and former Perry City Manager Marion Hayes “a big influencer” in securing the facility.
“We all realized if we could get it how much it would help the city,” Gentry said.
And what does he think of what the fair and facility have become?
“A lot of folks come here, not only for the fair but other events throughout the year. I never dreamed that it would grow this big and useful for all the kids in the state of Georgia. It’s become more than we ever realized it could be.”
Fittingly, Gentry’s grandson, Philip Gentry, is the GNFA agricultural/youth livestock director. Philip taught ag education at Perry High School for 10 years before accepting the position in June 2016.
“Georgia Farm Bureau has been a strong supporter of the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter from the start. Our organization and members saw the need Georgia had for a modern facility where 4-H and FFA members could exhibit their livestock in statewide shows. Farm Bureau worked to secure state support for the fairgrounds,” said GFB President Gerald Long. “We’re so happy to see how the fair and Agricenter continue to grow and fulfill its mission to educate consumers and youth about agriculture.”
This is the eighth consecutive year GFB has awarded the cash prizes presented to the grand champions of the Georgia Junior National Livestock Show. In addition to sponsoring the grand champion prizes, GFB has been a premier livestock sponsor for the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter’s past three show seasons.
If you haven’t made it to the fair yet, there’s still time. The fair runs through 10 p.m., Oct. 13.