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Back to the Fair like we always do

The View from Here

Neshoba County Fairgrounds — We’ve come back to the Fair as we always do.

It’s hard to say anything about the Neshoba County Fair that hasn’t already been said, written, photographed, painted or sung. Originality is hard to come by for an event that has touched the lives of so many writers, poets, musicians and artists who’ve expressed what the Fair means to them and what it means to Mississippi and the South.

Family and friends are where you start when you walk onto the few hundred acres of rolling red dirt. Handshakes, hugs and “How have you been?” get things going.
That’s quickly followed by, “What’s for supper?”
Or lunch. Breakfast. Midnight snack. The Fair is family, friends — and food.

A sausage biscuit at 8 a.m. Polish sausage at midnight. Fresh vegetables — peas, beans and squash — whenever they’re ready. There aren’t any dietary rules and regulations at the Fair: fat grams don’t count; homemade caramel cake is good for you; and extra mayonnaise and salt on that second tomato sandwich is just fine.

After eating, the Fair is about politics. It’s a spectator sport when candidates climb onto the stage under the pavilion at Founder’s Square.

Between the ol’ time stump speeches, people reminisce about a few of their favorite memories: Ronald Reagan in 1980 for many. The Fordice-Molpus debate in ‘95 is one of mine. But what might happen this year is what most of us homegrown C-SPAN political junkies are anticipating.

The main event this year?
OK, this year will be a rather mild one for politics as far as speeches under the pavilion go, but it should still be fun to watch the Bush believers and Kerry supporters trade a few licks between beers.

‘A few of my favorite things’

What you love about the Fair is what your best friend might hate. I tend to like…

Lugging a backpack full of books that I may or may not ever even think about reading to the cabin.
What’s in this year’s collection? A few good ones: A short mystery or two from Elizabeth Peters. “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books” — out in paperback from Azar Nafisi. The new one from Carl Hiaasen — “Skinny Dip.” Cheever’s “The Wapshot Chronicle.”
Hopefully, I’ll get around to a few of ‘em, but there are so many distractions.

Talkin’ football. MC or Millsaps this September? State or Ole Miss in November? Two questions and four schools near and dear to many of us.
We’ll buy a few of the preseason magazines on a grocery run to town, but probably never read them.

The Fair Times. For one week every summer, it’s the best daily newspaper in the state.
Best articles. Best pictures. Best ads.
Sure, you might pick up a few snippets of news from “Morning Edition” or scanning the Ledger, between a few cups of coffee, but all the good stuff, the important stuff going on in the world, will be in The Fair Times.

But, what about…

And then there are a couple of things you hope that you don’t see, but know that you will.

There’s the heat — and humidity.
Yeah, it is hot — you’re outside in Mississippi in July. What’d you expect?
Here, have a cold one.

The changes.
Kids grow up too fast. I’m feeling old. Old friends move on. People quit coming — the dust and heat and distance get to be too much. But thankfully, most of the Fair stays the same: Kids are still kids. You can feel young again. And the people that matter the most — they are here.

Crickets, frogs and stars

Southern-fried tradition is what the Neshoba County Fair is all about. It’s a combination of the best of being a Southerner: hospitality, great food, family, friends, a few good books, politics, music and sitting on a porch without a thought about what’s on TV tonight.

It’s Mississippi.

Jim Laird is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is jlaird@msbusiness.com. For the next few days, he’ll be sitting in a swing on a front porch at the Neshoba County Fair. Feel free to join him.

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