Staff Photo: John Bohn Bert Temple sets up his booth of inflatable characters at the Gwinnett County Fair Tuesday. The fair opens Thursday and runs until Sunday, September 25th.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Step right up to the county's greatest attraction: the 57th Annual Gwinnett County Fair, which opens today on the fairgrounds and runs through Sept. 25.
"We continue to change things up ... we look for who we want to perform for us -- you don't want that to be the same people every time," Dale Thurman, Gwinnett County Fair Manager said.
This year, the two main acts performing daily are Ozseeker the Clown, who will be around the fairgrounds, and the "Paul Bunyan Lumber Jack Show" with several live shows during each day. The Bunyan show last entertained at the fair 10 years ago.
The Miss Gwinnett Pageant -- for all ages (newborn to adult) -- begins today and ends Sunday. Babies, toddlers, young girls, teens and adults will grace the stage in hopes to win the first place crown. On Saturday, young women ages 17 to 24 compete for not only a crown, but a $1,200 scholarship towards college and the winner will represent the county at the Miss Georgia Pageant.
Young ladies toting tiaras isn't the only event at the fair. Attendees have a chance to experience other traditional festivities.
"We're trying to preserve the old time ways that kids don't see today," Thurman said.
He doesn't mean just getting out of the house, breathing fresh air and spending time with the family. Thurman is talking about the livestock shows, milking station and petting zoo at the fair for educational purposes.
"Children think milk comes from a carton, not a cow," Thurman said. "The milking station really teaches kids how and where their milk comes from."
There are livestock entered into the fair's competition circuit. Many will go back to their barns as winners in their category: everything from Angus to swine.
There are also contests for local residents to participate in to win a blue ribbon. Some of the categories are food, photography, art and stitch work with other sub-categories. All winners are on display in the Exhibition Hall at the entrance of the park.
For the thrill seekers, there are 52 rides assembled to enjoy. No need to worry about the safety and construction -- the State of Georgia inspects every inch of every ride at the fair. They won't allow the attendees to ride anything that needs service or a new part until it is fixed.
"That's why we've had a good record of no accidents because we do get inspected before the fair opens," Thurman said. "We want to be as safe as possible."
Others who would like to take chances elsewhere have the option to try their luck at the games and winners walk away with prizes. For those who want to just take home a toy, there are plenty of prize stands intertwined with the other vendors.
"The most popular stuff is the stuff kids see on TV and that they need to have," said Bert Temple, who runs an inflatable toy stand. "I also have some oddball stuff here, too. Monkeys, dolphins ... just odd stuff."
Many people come to the County Fair for the nostalgic food. Adults indulge in funnel cakes, corn dogs and fresh lemonade while the children fall in love with it for the first time.
One thing is certain, there is never a shortage of novelty treats, like fried butter or fried vegetables.
"I've wanted to try the deep fried Coke, but we haven't had anyone whose had it yet," Thurman said.
This concoction consists of Coke syrup fried like a funnel cake.
There are other vendors present to sell goods to the public and gather massive exposure. More than 200,000 people are anticipated to walk the fairgrounds this year and that helps drive business for many companies.
"We've been coming out for 10 years," John Bushwack of John Deere Grayson said. "Farmers that are exhibiting and other people come to look at our mowers. We've had great success here."
Many vendors do so well that they put down a deposit for next year before the current fair has ended.
"There's just something about going to the county fair -- it's tradition," Thurman said. "The only thing we can sell people is a smile."