NESHOBA COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS — In a few short days, folks will be moving entire households to this patch of red clay. This Friday marks the beginning of a sweaty week filled with too much food and beer, old friends, politics and porches, which makes the Neshoba County Fair an event unlike any other.
I’ve tried to explain the Fair before but have never pulled it off. I finish my story and people walk away — muttering and not getting it at all. I used to think that it was my lack of storytelling ability. Now, I think that it has more to do with the inherently inexplicable essence of the Fair. Individuals walk though the gates with their own unique expectations, and when they leave, not only are they different — the Fair is different, too. It’s not static. Every year — maybe every minute — the Fair changes. Good. Bad. Ugly. The Fair is as complex as the people floating around and through it.
AS GOOD AS IT GETS
Despite the legendary heat and humidity, you can always have a good time at the Fair. Hands down, it beats Mardi Gras, Christmas and even an election night in November for pure fun.
Here are a few of the groovier things that I love about the Neshoba County Fair:
• Reading the morning paper on the porch before it gets too hot.
• Wondering whether to count the beer I drink after midnight as the last of the evening or the first ones of a brand new day. Everyone should have this debate at some point in their lives.
• Devouring a Polish sausage with mustard and onions around 1 a.m.
• Talking politics. It doesn’t matter what race it is, people at the Fair will talk — and more than likely argue — about it. Speculation is the best game: “Is Wagon Wheel Blair still around?” “Why peanuts?” “Could Richard Barrett be any more scary?” “Who do you like: Parker or Briggs?” “Could Dan Gibson be any more scary?” “You think Musgrove’s worried about Roberts?”
• Watching my daughter play in the sand pile with her cousins.
• Debating the regulatory power of the state ag commissioner and the cultural significance of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
• Waiting to see if you made The Fair Times.
• Checking out the 4-Hers and their prize-winning livestock up at the barns.
• Off-beat and third-party politicians. Some of those guys should be institutionalized. Instead, they come to the Fair. Go figure.
• My mother-in-law’s vegetables swimming in butter and salt.
• Anticipating the start of football season. Rabid fans are the best fans.
• Making up politically incorrect lyrics to Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken.”
• Sitting on the porch. Looking down the road. Recognizing someone you know headed your way. Getting up. Waving. Going inside. Out the back door. To hide. Hospitality is great, but a quick escape is nice, too.
• Sleeping in the cold and dark upstairs on a metal bunk bed.
• Trying to remember how to play Spades on a slow afternoon.
AND THEN THERE`S THE DARKER SIDE
Actually, I haven’t found much to hate about the Fair except the wild thunderstorms that pop up and render the grounds a ruddy quagmire.
There are a few things, however, that are amusing — in an irritating kinda way:
• Chip Pickering’s cabin search.
• Barn stench.
• Redneck security. It’s like a “Hee-Haw” skit gone bad.
• That pesky mud.
• Remembering the 1995 Molpus-Fordice debate. Mississippi politics at its best and worst. Wonder what the Guv will yell about in his final Fair appearance?
• No hot water.
• Lone Star beer. What are they thinking? If you’re going to drink Texas beer, stick with Shiner.
• The Ferris wheel. It’s buckets of vomity fun for the height-sensitive.
Don’t let anyone scare you away from the Fair. Buy a wristband and stroll around the grounds on your own.
If you’re in the neighborhood, drop by cabin 334-D. I’d like to know what you like about the Fair.
Jim Laird is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.