Two-year-old Kenneth Lucas grinned as Chrystal the monkey climbed on his head. And that was only his first five minutes at the Columbia County Fair.
Kenneth, of Virginia, squealed and pointed at the spinning rainbow-colored tents and twinkling lights of the fair, as his grandmother Barbara Johnson of Harlem pushed him in a stroller.
The fair runs through Saturday at the Columbia County fairgrounds on Columbia Road.
Drew Exposition, which provided the midway at the Augusta Exchange Club for decades, moved its operations to Columbia County's fair this year.
Drew's fun-filled midway includes exciting rides such as the Cyclops and Himalaya, and classics including the Ferris wheel and children's rides.
Riders wave from the Ferris wheel on the opening day of the Columbia County Fair, sponsored by the Merchants Association.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"We are proud to have Jimmy Drew and Jim Drew with Drew Exposition as our fair providers this year," Mike Zapata, president of the Merchants Association, said during the fair's opening ceremony Thursday afternoon. The Merchants Association organizes the fair every year as its major fund-raiser.
The annual event is filled with fun and food, but the association also takes the opportunity to help the community.
During the fair's ribbon-cutting, the group passes out money it raised from last year's fair proceeds for various charities and scholarships to Columbia County pupils.
The association handed out checks to the following groups: Children's Miracle Network ($1,000); Project Wish ($1,000); Camp Rainbow ($1,000); American Red Cross of Augusta ($1,000); East Georgia Easter Seals Society ($1,000); Columbia County Cares ($2,000) and four $1,000 scholarships to vocational students in the county's high schools.
The group also handed an honorary $1,000 check to the Martinez-Evans Little League, which already has received its money.
Another $6,000 in scholarship money, which was awarded earlier this year to college-bound students, was recognized at the ceremony. Those scholarships are typically raised from the association's golf tournament.
Pam Randall, the association's secretary/treasurer, said she hopes this year's fair nets even more money for future contributions.
"How we turn out at the end of this year will determine how much we can give out next year," she said. "The bigger the crowds, the more we get, the more that we can give back to the kids and to the charities."
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