Thursday, July 22, 2010

Neshoba County Fair

(I first ran this post last year after attending the Neshoba Couty Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It was a first for me and it was a visit that I hope to one day make again. In lue of the fair that will go from June 23-30th, I thought I would make run this post again. For those that came by to attend my "Open House", my segments will continue on Monday. I cannot wait to share with you my bedroom in my next Open House segment. And a teaser...Big Daddy's favorite thing in it is a stick!)

It's the week in July that lends as much excitement as Christmas day in the life of a child. Though at the Neshoba County Fair, everyone is excited and anticipate the week of the fair, from young to old. With so many activities to look forward to, for it is the season for porch sitting, cabin calling, harness racing, fan waving, exhibit browsing, political stumping, midway meandering, night dancing, rodeo watching and chair racing has settled again on Neshoba County, like the red dirt that coats its campground." The Neshoba County Fair is unlike any other. It truly IS what is is touted, Mississippi's giant house party, as I quickly learned, this being my first time to attend. Established in 1889, the Neshoba County Fair fosters political, agricultural, and social exchanges of knowledge and ideas.

The fair is like a miniature town, complete with a functioning post office-open for just that week.

Everyone is neighborly, and if you don't go with with friends, you will make friends quickly. I went to the fair with my 2 friends Sweetness and Diva and left with several new friends, that I hope to fellowship with again (as I cross my fingers for an invite next year).

The "fair" is contrived of neighboring cabins built around a horse track. As mentioned in my post earlier this week to acquire a cabin most are inherited, through from time to time cabins do come up for sale, though it is rare. The fair cabin is the center of activity for families staying at the fair and the front porch is the most popular place for gathering. Porches are for sitting, visiting and just watching the neighborhood activities. And quite honestly, to truly enjoy the Neshoba County Fair, one must have access to a cabin. Cabins are mostly only used one week of the year, though can be accessed from April through August.
I was lucky, through my friend Sweetness we were guest at the cabin of Bill and Paula Freeman and their two children. The Freeman's were quite the gracious host. They fed us and tended to us, making certain that we were enjoying ourselves.On Wednesday night the Freeman's hosted a fish fry at their cabin for over 50 of their closet friends, it is a annual tradition. The fish was caught fresh from the gulf and prepared at the cabin. It was served fried along with friend hushpuppies, fries and chicken.

Most cabins have bunk quarters and the Freeman's was no different, we slept camp style in bunk beds on hte upper level. The cabin slept 16 comfortably. The cabins are adorable, very much like something you would see in Keywest, with festive colors as vivid and whimsical to much of the artwork that is sold at the fair. The festive environment, nostalgic air and bright colors have long inspired artists to add their own brushstrokes to the fun. At night the cabins twinkle in a bevy of lights of all kinds: white lights, colored lights and many beautiful and whimsical paper lanterns. It's a very celebratory mood.

But don't think that because you don't own a cabin you cannot enjoy one. I quickly found out that folks will invite you over to enjoy supper, dessert and happy hour-knowing you or not. And what is a great idea, which is now in it's 3rd year of existence is the "Hospitality Cabin". The Hospitality cabin rotates to a new cabin each day. Cabins are picked by fair directors as well as applied to be a hospitality cabin. Diva and I wanted to find out what the hospitality cabin was all about so we made our way to the Therrell cabin, a cabin that has been in the family since approx. 1915.

The cabin was actually two cabins, rebuilt to one large cabin. Cousins Bill And Todd Therrell offered us dessert from an array of home baked goods, lemonade or water and a clean bathroom to use.

"The hospitality cabin came in existence after questioning some concert goers on their fair experience and they said they hated it. They were hot, the bathroom lines were long and the fair food was expensive was what they said. And so the idea of the hospitality cabin was born, a place where folks can come in from the heat or in the case of today, the rain and get a bite to eat, a cold drink and a clean bathroom. Guest are encouraged to stay as long as they want. They can rest on the porch and take in the sights as long as they want. It's a great concept". My thanks to the Therrel family for their kindness and delicious food. The Therrel cabin was also the parking space, on this day, for the horse race championship trophy, which we got to get a look at. The trophy was huge.

Oh!I must mention the horse races, which are a big-no HUGE- part of the fair.The racing program is a big attraction at the Fair. The program consists of Standard bred harness horses with U.S.T.A. eligibility certificates. Thoroughbred and and Quarter horses also have a part in the racing program. It is the state's only licensed horse track since 1922. Racing is conducted each afternoon Sunday through Friday. Races are held daily beginning at 2PM. It was my first horse race of that kind, interesting to watch.

The big news though, on the day that I went was the RAIN, it came in buckets, raining off and on most of the day. But that didn't stop fair goers, who still partied and enjoyed the surrounding...making the best of the rain with rain boots and umbrella's.

Football is so much more fun when played in the mud, don-cha think? The kids below took turns washing the red mud off during one such game.

The Neshoba County Fair is the political forum for the State of Mississippi. State, Local, and on occasion National politicians come to the fair to make their speeches at the Pavilion in Founders Square. News media from around the state converge on the Square to cover the speeches. We passed on the political speeches, because this was not a big election year, except for state positions of Mississippi. And not being a Mississippi resident, I walked on to the agricultural fair where I checked out the livestock and racehorses up close.

I did, however go back to the Pavilion later into the night to enjoy a concert with some of my new friends. A blast with some great oldies and classic songs preformed by the group Class Reunion.

Speaking of concerts, Atlanta Rhythm Section preformed on the night I attended. WOOT! They sang the classic songs titled, "Spooky", "I am so Into You","Imaginary Lover", among others. Fun for me because those are songs from my generation. I had a blast singing and dancing along.

When the concert was over, Diva and I met the sweetest couple, Bill and Lisa Parker.
Bill's mother's family was actually the ones who dreamed up the idea for the Neshoba County Fair. After attending a fair in another area of Mississippi, Mr. Parker and his friend, Richardson were picnicking on a creekbank when they decided to bring the fair concept to Neshoba Co. In 1889 the first fair took place. The fairgrounds also were home to a Methodist campground, which is how the cabins came to be. Bill and Lisa invited us back to the cabin to meet the elder Mr. and Mrs Parker.

Bill's family still owns one of the original cabins and it is kept in it's primitive state, lending much character to the cabin. Mrs. Parker shared that she was 79 years old. She recalls being a child and attending the fair, her father would give her 25cents to spend at the fair. She has only missed two fairs in all those years. It was a most interesting visit, thanks to the Parker family for inviting us in, bring out chairs and offering cold cokes to drink. What delightful folks!

I want to make mention that the fair does have a fairway with rides and on Saturday in the square there is an artshow, but for me the fair was about the experience: The cabins and their quaint little named neighborhoods but most of all the people. The people were all so kind. The hospitality (fish fries, desserts, martini's on the porch at Donna's, a sing along by OB) that was offered to me by the kindness of strangers-generous. Strangers who quickly became my friends.

I hope to be invited back for next years "House party". Thanks Friends (aka "FRANS")!!

Here are some more pictures from the 2009 Neshoba County Fair.... Thanks for the memories!

Visit Leigh's Plates and Places for Fair Food Recipes and recipes discovered via Neshoba County fair.

Neshoba County Fair Association
16800 Highway 21 South
Philadelphia, MS 39350
601 656-8480 Fax: 601 656-8461
email: Neshoba County Fair
“Neshoba County Fair” and “Mississippi's Giant House Party” are registered trademarks


Kristin - The Goat said...

Leigh that looks like so much fun!! Thanks for the tour, the history, the slideshow - everything :)

Decor To Adore said...

This looks like such a good time!

Anonymous said...

Really hate I missed it! Glad you all had fun! "LOVE"!! ~HM

Denise said...

What fun! The cabins are adorable!


Plain Chicken said...

Looks like a good time!

Jemsmom said...

I have seen an article for this fair! I think it was in Southern Living! How fun that you have been. It looks like a great time! I love your summer pictures post. Looks like you are doing summer just right! Have a great weekend! I am off to Tennessee to visit family for a few weeks!

Anonymous said...

Did you bother to ask why no black families own cabins? Well, they don't and never will. Because "That's the way it was, is, and always will be", was what I was told by a longtime white cabin owner.

You have to "apply" for a very limited number of new cabin spots when/if the become available. Or, you have to purchase one from an established owner. Trust me, a black will never own a cabin at the Neshoba County Fair.

Oh don't get me wrong, you'll see plenty of blacks at the fair. Most are working, or leave the grounds each night.

It just goes to prove that in Mississippi, "The more things change, the more they stay the same".

I'm not black, or from Mississippi. Just a white "outsider" making a very educated observation based on first-hand knowledge.