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Gettin’ right at the Neshoba County Fair

The Fair snuck up on me this year.

Life has a way of running its manic course, and the next thing you know, it’s time to head for the cabin — driving over to Neshoba County on a stereotypically hot and hazy Friday afternoon.

Back to the Fair we go this week. Families and friends move lock, stock and beer barrel to the rolling red clay hills outside of Philadelphia for Mississippi’s Giant Houseparty.

Cars, trucks and SUVs will be overloaded with coolers full of cold drinks, grills and groceries and precious children who are growing up way, way too fast. And then we’ll spend a week slowing down, getting away and taking time to ask, “How have you been?”

What it means

The Neshoba County Fair traces its beginning to 1889. The rich history and the traditions of the place and the people who participate in the annual summer ritual have been well documented, and it’s difficult to say anything about it that hasn’t already been said, written, photographed, broadcast, painted or sung.

The Fair is an experience 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.

Here’s a glimpse of what it means to me: coffee and the paper on the front porch when it’s still cool and quiet on the fairgrounds. The perfect tomato sandwich. Sweaty candidates campaigning hard and wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into. Walking the racetrack with the sun going down and the Eight Year Old and her partner in crime, the Five Year Old, asking those questions that only little girls can.

And what the Fair means to me isn’t what it means to anyone else, but the beauty of it all is that every year we get to go back and find our own Fair.

The 2006 incarnation

Thousands of us will descend on the fairgrounds for this year’s Fair. It starts this Friday and runs through July 28th.

A few of the highlights include the rodeo this Friday and Saturday nights; the flea market this Saturday; the afternoon harness and running races that start this Sunday; and all week long a midway, special programs and nightly concerts.

The politics might be light this year, but it’s the Fair and candidates know the expectations for a good performance are high. The speeches get started at Founders Square Wednesday, July 26, and continue Thursday, the 27th.

If you haven’t partaken of this Southern-fried tradition, take a roadtrip next week and find out for yourself what the Neshoba County Fair is all about. I think you’ll discover that 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.

Complete details about the 2006 Neshoba County Fair are online at www.neshobacountyfair.org.

Contact MBJ editor Jim Laird at jlaird@msbusiness.com.

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