In 1946 the Kiwanis Club of Griffin needed a project to raise finances to help serve the community. In October of 1946, Frank Aiken visited the Kiwanis Club of Henry County and brought back the idea of a Griffin Kiwanis sponsored county fair. The idea was well received by the Board of Directors in November. In January, 1947, the new board, under the leadership of President C.B. Dexter, decided to sponsor the Spalding County Fair.
The first fair manager was George Gaissert, assisted by N.V. Davis, Herman Nelson, Wallace Bailey, E.F. Savage, and Fred Newman. Tents were rented and set up to house the exhibits at the racetrack in the city park. A net profit of $1,800.00 was realized. The fund was spent quickly by the money-starved Kiwanis Club on worthwhile community projects. The result was that George Gaissert, again had to finance the cost of putting on the second fair. It was held on the airport property and netted $2,400.00 profit.
In only one year (1953) has the fair failed to return a profit. That year there was no day during the fair week that it did not rain. This forced each member of the club to sign a personal bond to underwrite the cost of the buildings constructed that year. The Board of Directors of the Kiwanis Club, following this financial disaster, wisely saw to it that the debt was repaid from fair profits, and a nest egg set up to take care of any future financial loss due to inclement weather.
In 1949 permanent buildings were started on the present site, and improvements have continued to be made each year. The original Kiwanis and 4-H food booths were wooden with saw-dust floors. The Korn Dawg stand was an open shed with a two-eye gas burner as equipment. The needlework booth was open with the exhibits covered with plastic to keep them clean. The flower show was in the number one building, with a turntable used for exhibits by the Griffin Federated Garden Clubs. The present Youth Building housed the 4-H poultry show before moving it to the livestock barn (one of the original buildings).
Over the years, fair ground improvements include midway extension, improved parking facilities and access roads, a covered outdoor stage, track for truck pull contests, flower show building, and enclosed needlework exhibit space, TV lounge and more. The Kiwaniannes enlarged their Korn Dawg stand in 1989 to almost twice it original size.
During 1991 the fair ground facilities continued to be improved. Vinyl siding was placed on all three exhibit buildings at a cost of approximately $10,000.00, and through necessity, most of the plumbing was replaced throughout the fair grounds at a cost of $4,780.00.
During the summer of 1994 an $8,000.00 lighted sign was placed outside the Kiwanis Fair Grounds with the Kiwanis International emblem. The sign continued to be an asset to the community by advertising upcoming community events until it was upgraded in 2015 with a new digital sign. The 1994 Fair was a total rain out, but thanks to Belle City Amusements, who were able to rearrange the schedule, we were able to continue the Fair for a second week. This enabled us to pay our bills and support our service projects for the 1994-95 administrative year.
Beginning with the 1995 Fair, it became a scheduled nine-day event which opens on Thursday of one week and continues through Saturday of the following week (excluding Sunday). In 2006 the Club membership voted to open the Fair on Sunday and in 2014 the first Thursday was dropped, making us a nine day Fair.
In April 2005, a new long term (30 year) lease was signed between the City of Griffin and the Kiwanis Fair Association, Inc. As a result of this lease, Fair Manager Bill Wages and a specially appointed ad hoc committee began making plans for building a large, all weather building to be constructed where the “live stock” building had stood for many years. (The live stock building had to be razed after being totaled by a wind storm in December 2004).
Seventy plus years of community service projects have been financed from the proceeds of the Kiwanis sponsored Spalding County Fair.
The Kiwanis of Griffin Center was first used for stage entertainment at the 2009 Fair. The Kiwanis Club of Griffin weekly meetings have been held in the Kiwanis of Griffin center since September of 2010. The Center was made available for rent to the general public for weddings, parties, gun shows, and so forth since the spring of 2011 and has rapidly become the place for these types of events. Essentially, every weekend finds the Center being enjoyed by various groups in the community.
The Fair Grounds continuously change to meet the needs of the Fair, the Kiwanis Club of Griffin, and the community. As an example, the old truck pull track has been converted to a 4-H Horse Arena that is used by the Spalding County 4-H Club.
The Kiwanis Club of Griffin is blessed with talented and dedicated members who do most of the work on improving the facilities at the Fair Grounds. Most of the interior work on the Center was done gratis by Kiwanis Club of Griffin members. New ticket booths have been constructed and improvements to existing structures continue every year.
Kiwanis members volunteer over 3,000 hours every year maintaining the property, preparing for the fair, selling and taking tickets, parking cars, and managing the operations of the Fair. Beginning at the 2018 Fair, Kiwanis of Griffin will be operating the Bingo Booth at the Fair.
Some years back, the city and county did a property trade and the Fair Grounds became city property. In 1979, a city official obligated the property to the FAA in order to receive a grant for airport improvement. Since then the Airport Authority has received about $9+ million in grants.
Now that the new airport has been approved, the FAA mandates that when the airport moves to the new location, the existing property must be sold and the derived funds are to be used in the construction of the new airport. The new airport will probably take 5 – 7 years to complete. The Kiwanis Fair Grounds is considered part of that obligation. The Kiwanis Club of Griffin is made up of 120 members, all volunteers dedicated to community service. Over the past 70+ years, the Kiwanis volunteers have built an infrastructure on this property valued at over $1.5 million. The property is used continuously for community activities. The Fair and Pancake Day are our two main fundraisers. All proceeds are returned to the community.
The Kiwanis Club does not have the funds to purchase the 28 acres that we presently use. The estimated appraisal will probably be in the neighborhood of $840,000.00. Ideally, we would like to find a grant that could be used to purchase the property and return ownership to Spalding County.
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