neshoba county fairgrounds — Folks have moved entire households to the hundreds of cabins and trailers on this patch of red clay in the rolling hills of east central Mississippi. Last Friday night saw 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.
• Feeling the anticipation on the drive over Friday night. It’s like being six years old again and getting a new bike for your birthday.
• 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.
• My bud Wellis in a brand new lawn chair. Duuuuuuuuude.
• 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: “What’ll Musgrove have to say?” “Think Fordice misses the Fair?” “Whatever happened to Mike Parker?” “Shows vs. Pickering: What do you think of that?”
• Debating the regulatory power of the state ag commissioner and the cultural significance of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
• Tums. Goody’s. Ice water.
• Waiting to see if you made The Fair Times.
• Checking out the 4-Hers and their prize-winning livestock up at the barns.
• Anticipating the start of football season. Rabid fans are the best fans.
• Making up politically incorrect lyrics to Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken.”
• The Silver Star’s breakfast buffet on Sunday morning.
• 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 can’t be beat.
• Trips to town for “provisions.”
• 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:
• Barn stench.
• Redneck security. It’s like a “Hee-Haw” skit gone bad.
• That pesky mud.
• No hot water.
• Lone Star beer. What are they thinking? If you’re going to drink Texas beer, stick with Shiner.
• Saturday afternoon with no harness racing.
• 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 email@example.com.