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Gwinnett County Fair set to open for business

Staff Photo: John Bohn As preparations are underway for the 2012 edition of the Gwinnett County Fair, the Rock & Roll midway ride is constructed by, from right to left, Carl Young, Michael Green, Norman O'Dell III and Robert Mallory on Wednesday afternoon. The Gwinnett County Fair Grounds are open Thursday, September 13 to the 23rd.

Staff Photo: John Bohn As preparations are underway for the 2012 edition of the Gwinnett County Fair, the Rock & Roll midway ride is constructed by, from right to left, Carl Young, Michael Green, Norman O'Dell III and Robert Mallory on Wednesday afternoon. The Gwinnett County Fair Grounds are open Thursday, September 13 to the 23rd.

Reader poll

What do you enjoy most about the Gwinnett County Fair?

  • Rides & Games 19%
  • Livestock shows 21%
  • People watching 14%
  • Food 26%
  • I don't go to the fair 19%

134 total votes.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Janice Rogers, left, cleans a pen holding a brown Swiss dairy calf, while Barbara Larson, right, assists in the Gwinnett County 4H farm friend educational exhibit at the 2012 edition of the Gwinnett County Fair. The fair opens on Thursday, September 13 and runs to the 23rd.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn David Brady places trash cans as preparations are made Wednesday, for the opening of the 2012 edition of the Gwinnett County Fair. The fair opens on Thursday, September 13and runs to the 23rd.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- After two and a half days of building, banging, cleaning and decorating, the Gwinnett County Fair is ready for swarms of people to walk though its gates Thursday and for the next 10 days.

There are 55 rides and attractions for the crowd to enjoy, including the Mouse Trap roller coaster, merry-go-round and Ferris wheel. It's safety first during construction because all of the structures are inspected by the state of Georgia, even though it's not required.

"They come in, check everything out and make sure it's safe," Dale Thurman, Gwinnett County Fair manager, said. "We've been very fortunate not to have an accident over the years."

Rides aren't the only things available for fun -- there are games galore with prizes and live music from several acts, including Billy "Crash" Craddock, Jimmy Fortune and The Skillit Lickers, a Gwinnett group that has continued to perform generation to generation.

This year, the two main acts performing daily are Ozseeker the Clown, who will be around the fairgrounds, and the "Nojoes Clown Circus" with performances multiple times a day.

The Miss Gwinnett Pageants -- 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 scholarship towards college and the winner will represent the county at the Miss Georgia Pageant.

To Thurman and the others who run the fair, the event more than just tickets, stuffed prizes and funnel cake: it's an educational experience for the children.

One of the highlights of the annual event is it's livestock competitions because it teaches residents about agriculture and the where food comes from instead of the grocery store shelves.

"If we didn't have the livestock show, we'd be a carnival," Thurman said. "We're more than fried food and rides. We educate and entertain with the livestock."

As Gwinnett County grows commercially and residentially, it's agricultural lifestyle has dwindled, so the cows, lambs, hogs and other livestock in the competition are from around metro Atlanta and out of state.

That doesn't stop Thurman and his crew from hosting the event.

"We're now sort of the Southeastern Livestock Show -- not just Gwinnett County," said Bill Atkinson, who orchestrates the livestock show. "But this event is for the kids. That's why we continue to do it."

The children that show the animals usually raise the livestock, work with it daily and make it showcase ready for competitions.

"It's just like having a dog," Thurman said. "It's your pet."

Those that win receive blue ribbons and take home cash prizes. Usually, the livestock is auctioned off later for food or other reasons.

"I know it must be heartbreaking for some of the kids when they have to auction off their livestock," Thurman said. "Some of them even bottle feed the animals when they're young, but then they get a new animal and start over again."

There are livestock shows daily with everything from Angus cattle to meat goats. The fair ends Sept. 23.