Exchange Club Fair provides economic boost

The cotton candy stand at the fair is preparing to cook up some sugary treats. / Sarah Bleau

The Exchange Club opened the gates for its 65th annual Exchange Club Fair of Southwest Georgia.

"It's a tradition but they enjoy it," says Jimmy Strates, one of the owners of Strates Shows which attends the Exchange Club Fair.

The fair is expecting a lot of people from 18 surrounding counties, and Fair Manager Skip Nichols even received a phone call from someone in Perry who plans to attend.

In past years, Strates says there were so many people it was difficult to move around.

With a large crowd comes a lot of money. Fair officials don't know an exact amount, but say it's enough to help the economy.

"We're one of the top three in Albany, the economic boost for Albany," says Nichols.

One vendor says it is possible to make between $2,000 and $3,000 per day, especially opening day; but 30 percent of that pays for their supply expenses, and the rest helps with their meals and hotel stays.

"When the Strates shows comes to town as well as out of town guests coming in, going and either staying here through the motels and food and all that we have," says Nichols.

One vendor says he goes through 300 pounds of propane per day, which he has to buy locally to refuel. He also had to pay $400 to have a flat tire replaced.

"What is being spent in a fair buys motels, gasoline and the diesel fuel it takes to fill up every day with their eating and buying their groceries, a fair is a great stimulus for the economy in any place," says Strates

Vendors say the money is enough for them to make a living but, overall, they get into the business for the atmosphere.

Visit the Exchange Club Fair website for more information about prices, times and events this week.