2011-10-05 / News

Display of dedication

Volunteer donates decades of service to help with fair exhibits
By Anne Marie Kyzer annemariek@thetruecitizen.com

Next week’s fair will mark Mary Ann Johnson’s 35th year volunteering in the exhibit hall. Next week’s fair will mark Mary Ann Johnson’s 35th year volunteering in the exhibit hall. If it can be made by hand, grown in the soil or preserved in a Ball canning jar, she’s probably seen some variation of it.

From popsicle stick creations to intricate patchwork quilts and prolific peanuts to still life paintings, Mary Ann Johnson has seen some of the best work Burke County artisans, growers and homemakers have to offer.

For decades, she has volunteered her time at the Exchange Club Fair to manage the exhibits entered in the contests there. Next week’s fair will mark her 35th year.

The role requires her to categorize hundreds of entries and help prepare them for judging. It’s tedious work but she enjoys seeing what comes through the doors each year.

“There are so many good ideas and different items on display at the fair,” she says, describing in awe the handmade guitars she’s seen crafted. “Even the little ones come up with the most unique things made out of the most unusual items.”

Many of the entries take months to make or produce before they are proudly entered as exhibits.

“They are so time consuming,” Mary Ann says. “We have some people who start on a new project right when the fair is over and work on it all the way until the next October.”

She remembers when her children, now grown with families of their own, would ready their projects for the fair and how proud they were to bring home a colorful ribbon and prize money to boot. They’d use the money to buy Christmas gifts or add to their savings accounts. It was then that she was asked if she’d like to help out by former Extension agent Anne Perry. She graciously said yes and has been there ever since, putting in long hours before the fair gates ever open.

Now, Mary Ann watches as her grandchildren enter projects each year and continues to volunteer her time.

Longtime Exchange Club member and former president Nell Mobley has been by Mary Ann’s side in the exhibit hall for more than two decades and can testify that it’s a tough job but one that’s done out of devotion to the fair and this community.

“It’s not an easy job and it’s something you do because you just love the fair. It’s certainly not one I would have tackled without her,” she says. “I just enjoy it so much, though, and it’s because my heart is in the Exchange Club.”


After entering the front gate, take a few minutes to stroll through the exhibit hall and check out this year’s entries. Burke County 4-H members have decorated booths along one wall with themed educational projects. Two others are lined with entries in a wide variety of categories, such as models, crocheted and quilted blankets, pottery, woodworking, garden produce, jewelry, basket weaving and needlework.


The Exchange Club Fair will run next Tuesday-Saturday, Oct. 11- 15. Gates open each weekday at 5:45 p.m. and on Saturday at 3 p.m.

On the midway, there will be plenty of games and rides to enjoy. Look for old favorites as well as a few new additions.

Also, twice each night, hunker down for some fast action with Chase’s Racing Pigs. Watch as four pigs scramble around the track and even slosh their way through a swimming leg of the race. Sponsorships are still available for local businesses to have their name plastered across the broad side of a pot-bellied pig .. can’t beat that kind of publicity. Call Bob Mallard at 478-569-4174 or Anne Marie Kyzer at 706-554- 5388 for more information.

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