Since the Georgia National Fair opened its gates for the first time in October 1990, attending the fair has become a tradition for many families. Children born that year are now adults and took their families to the state fair in Perry as the ag extravaganza celebrated its 30th anniversary this fall.
From Oct. 3 through 13, fairgoers turned out in force setting a new annual attendance record of 565,533. This broke the previous attendance record of 536,840 visitors set in 2016.
“Georgia Farm Bureau has been a strong supporter of the Georgia National Fair and Agricenter from the start. Our members saw the need Georgia had for a modern facility where 4-H and FFA members could exhibit their livestock. 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.”
State leaders and members of Georgia's ag community marked the fair’s milestone during opening ceremonies on Oct. 3.
“Our mission for the 30th anniversary fair was to offer something for everyone in the family to come and enjoy each and every day! We celebrate Georgia during the fair. From our youth participating in agriculture competitions, to our dynamic family entertainment, we are all about tradition and quality of life in Georgia,” said GNF & Agricenter Executive Director Stephen Shimp.
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. It makes me feel good to see the kids out in the barn,” Kemp said. “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.
Shimp recognized the GNFA’s four 30-year employees: Pat Alligood, Cindy Bellew, George Neal and Richard Scuderi. 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.
“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 a Perry City Council member in the late 1980s when the council and county commission 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.
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, a position he’s held since June 2016.