Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Neshoba County Fair

I thought about not doing a Fair entry since I did one last year and much is the same, but then I thought people return to the Fair over and over counting on that very thing. People want The Fair to remain practically unchanged by time and guess what, The Neshoba County Fair has succeeded. The Neshoba County Fair draws people from several states (not just the county), has been featured in The National Geographic magazine, and is home to enough people during two or three weeks to merit its own post office, yet remains what I remember from 30 plus years ago.

The main gate is the same as it has always been. At one time the ticket house was painted brown, but has been mostly yellow. It still is. I talked last year about how some of the cabins have updated to more comfortable arrangements with glassed windows and air conditioners. More have done so this year, but even with the air conditioning people still prefer to spend most of the day sitting on the porch in the heat so they can see and be seen, greet and be greeted, entertain and be entertained. I hope that social aspect of the fair will never change.

Another thing about The Fair that won't change is the politicking. If you don't make the fair, don't expect to be elected. Presidential candidates even come to garner votes here. Political speaking, hand shaking, and poster hanging runs rampant. Political pamphlets are great, but why stop there. Those in the know, bring fans printed with their names. One candidate even handed out Popsicles to children at the horse races. Every bare, non-cabin surface has a poster stapled to it.

Though the midway is only a quarter of the size of the state fair, the Neshoba County Fair has rides for every age and courage level. This year we got to ride in crowns. I also rode some strawberries and have come to the conclusion that something must happen to you as you age that renders spinning and twirling nauseating. Age aside, the midway is much more fun at night when the sun isn't unmercifully cooking the rides, people, and red clay.

Food is the best part of the midway, not that you should expect to find any haute cuisine. You won't. You can get fresh squeezed lemonade, hand-dipped corn dogs, freshly spun cotton candy, candy apples, chicken on a stick, fried pickles, catfish (definitely not from China), and funnel cakes. And this is just on the midway. At the cabins you will find the real southern food and hospitality donning the picnic tables, but you have to look closer for it than you used to.

Take a side trip through the exhibit halls to see the competition for blue ribbons in arts and crafts, canning, and produce. My children exhibited this year and both won ribbons in the youth division. Next year, they say they will enter more stuff, because in addition to the blue ribbons they won cash prizes. I would guess that the cash prizes are encouragement to participate. The pride involved in winning the blue ribbon in canning or sewing is not what it once was, or there are truly fewer people canning and gardening, or few have time to create entries. Who knows why, but the exhibition hall is not as full as in years past. I suspect my children will solve that problem next year. The exhibition hall is not plush, just a barn structure with a closed and air conditioned room for the craft entries. Both my children were so proud of their blue ribbons that we had to run through the exhibit hall at least a hundred times before they were satisfied enough to leave the fair grounds.

Are you tired yet? We've just gotten started. On Sunday, there is always an antique car show. Once judged, the winners sit in Founder's Square and talk to interested people, then there is a parade around the track at the grandstand. I'm always amazed by the effort and money spent to get these cars in new condition. When I was much younger, many of the cars were driven to the fair. I used to get so excited when they passed our house. Part of it was that I knew where the cars were going, but I was also excited to see the unexpected. Few drive now. Maybe they don't because the other traffic is going so fast that there is fear of being crushed. Maybe they don't because the owners don't like to putt-putt along. Who knows. But tradition still reigns at the fair, so on Sunday morning you can still see antique cars and trucks.

When you are completely exhausted and your feet are aching, get some lemonade and sit in the grandstands while watching the races - mule, trotter, and quarter horse. Recover in time for the nightly shows and pageants, more food, and dancing when the sun hides behind the cabins and temperatures moderate.

I went to the fairgrounds yesterday, so the children could pick up their entries. They are already talking about next year. Next year - almost just the same, only better.


Susan T. said...

Thanks, Wisteria, for the trip to the Fair. I went once, a long time ago. I remember sitting in the hot sun listening to political speeches because my dad made us.

I know what you mean about the spinning rides. I can't ride them at all anymore, and I used to love them. Now one twirl and I'm so dizzy...

doc said...

Cabins? Are they for people who stay at the fair? Dang, that would be nice. We're stuck in our own RV's or tents, out in an open field, wih no hookups. If you're lucky enough to have a generator (or lucky enough to be next to a friendly neighbor with one) you can run your AC, otherwise, it's a tough place to sleep for a week.

Wisteria said...

Susan, I imagine you were bored. Even as an adult, I feel the need to drift in and out of Founder's Square or the Grandstand. I hope you got to see other things, too.

Doc, There are about 600 cabins (maybe more), mostly passed down through families so people can stay at the fair all week. A few of the old houses sell each year and occasionally a new area opens and new building adds more, but mostly families hand down the fair tradition with the cabin. You may rent houses if you have the right connections.

There are also camper connections and hundreds of people RV the week. Reservations must be made well in advance to secure the choice shady places, close to the gate.

The cabins are what make this fair different and special. We don't stay, though I have. Sleeping is nearly impossible until 1 a.m. because of noise. Though we seem to be missing some of the spirit of the fair, we don't have to drive far and we get to sleep.

ZBTzahBTzoo said...

I just loved reading this post, and it didn't even "take me back," because I never got to attend a county fair when I was a kid. It was just a pleasure to read. And, dang! That clay IS red!

Wisteria said...

Looks unnatural, but it is real. If the top soil is washed away, the clay is what you get. Bad in some ways, but your house doesn't settle.

Angela, MotherCrone said...

I am so glad you shared another trip to the fair. Those posts are always so timeless, and truly Southern. I can smell the sweet potato pie from here...

Melora said...

What a neat fair! I've never been to one with cabins.
I loathe midways -- the rides, the food, the noise -- but that is where we spend most of our time because the rest of my crew love that stuff.
Congratulations to your children on their ribbons! Good job! A friend of ours has her kids enter art projects in the fair in Winston (she enters jellies and preserves), and it was fun to go through the hall and see their stuff displayed.
Your photograph of the trotter is amazing!