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Exchangite a hit with agricultural fairs group

Wearing his Exchange Club of Albany orange shirt H. Joe “Skip” Nichols holds the state Fairman of the Year award given him by the Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs in Atlanta. On the right Ray Hinman, club president, explains the honor that accompanies the award.

Wearing his Exchange Club of Albany orange shirt H. Joe “Skip” Nichols holds the state Fairman of the Year award given him by the Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs in Atlanta. On the right Ray Hinman, club president, explains the honor that accompanies the award.

ALBANY, Ga. — Hard work, a passion for service and a smile that wins friends and influences others to work hard have brought statewide recognition to an Exchange Club of Albany member.

H. Joe "Skip" Nichols received the Fairman of the Year award given by the Georgia Association of Agricultural Fairs at its 99th meeting in Atlanta Jan. 19.

Nichols had no idea he had been nominated by his fellow Exchangites and by E. James Strates, president of the Strates Shows group that brings amusement and more to the county's annual fair.

"This is the highest fair award in the state of Georgia," Exchange Club President Ray Hinman said. "We put Skip up for the award. We are proud of him, and he didn't know anything about it."

The surprise honor in front of hundreds at the convention in Atlanta became an emotional moment for Nichols. That emotion returned at Thursday's club luncheon meeting. As he stepped to the podium to speak, he choked up.

"Here we go again," Nichols said to the club members with a lump in his throat. "I had no idea I was even in the running. I was taught that when you are handed something to do, you do a little better to set an example. It is hard to set an example with you. You all do 100 percent-plus in what we do."

Nichols took over the fair manager job in 2003 and has been running with it ever since. In 2003, according to a nominating letter, there were no fair sponsors. Now there are more than 20.

He attends conferences on fairs every year and gathers ideas and contacts to support the fair. Nichols played an instrumental part in establishing and running the fair's popular demolition derby.

The club puts on the fair to finance its scholarships, awards to community groups and other work toward helping end child abuse.

"This is not only my award. It is all of yours. Thank you for all you all do for this Exchange Club of Albany," Nichols said. "It is a pleasure to be associated with you all. Thank you for considering me for this award."

Nichols joins three other Fairman honorees from the Exchange Club: Marvin Lorig, Butch Griffin and Larry Griffin.