Election-year Fair 'biggest thing of all'

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Published: July 16,2007

It’s time again for Mississippi’s Giant Houseparty, the Neshoba County Fair. The Fair officially opens July 20, but families have been hard at work cleaning and preparing their cabins for occupancy and area merchants’ cash registers are ringing with sales and anticipated sales for this yearly economic boost. This year’s Fair has the added impact of an election year with its attendant campaign spending.

“The Fair is the biggest thing of the year and it’s good for us economically,” said Lisa Smith, director of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Program. “A lot of people will leave the Fair and come downtown to shop and eat in the restaurants. They also fill up the motels here.”

As proof of the extra dollars Fair visitors bring into Philadelphia, the month of July always sees a hike in sales tax figures. Last year’s sales tax collection for July was $279,278. In 2004, July represented 17% of the year’s total collections, and in 2005 it represented 15% of the total.

“An election-year Fair is the biggest thing of all,” Smith added. “It makes an impact. Although state candidates bring in their election paraphernalia, candidates for county offices purchase theirs here.”

At Yates Building Supply, store manager Stan Yates said employees are busy selling supplies to cabin owners who’re repairing and cleaning their facilities for the week-long stay at the Fair.

Those building supplies include ready-mix batch concrete, flooring, plumbing, lumber, tin, electrical materials and paint. Because some cabin owners live out of town, Yates and his employees put them in touch with local builders to do work on cabins. He said paint is a big factor as cabin owners are more daring with colors than they are in their year-round homes.

“Having an election year doesn’t really make a difference for us because families who own cabins stay in their cabins every year, and they always get them ready in the weeks and months before the Fair starts,” he said.

Yates added that the Fair definitely has a positive effect on businesses of the community. The building supply business has 16 employees and uses part-time high school help in the weeks before the Fair.

The Fair’s general manager, Douglas Johnson, who’s in his 14th year with the Fair, describes activities at the 118-acre fairgrounds as busy, busy, busy.

“There’s been a tremendous number of carpenters here working on cabins since last winter with painting and tear downs and rebuilds; more than I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “We’ve had eight new cabins built this year, too.”

There are 600 privately owned cabins, many of which have been in families for generations. There’s also a big demand for RV camper spots. All camping sites are sold and there are 185 names on this year’s waiting list.

Program wise, Johnson says everything is in place and all other arrangements are looking real good.

“We expect a big year,” he said. “With an election year, ticket sales usually increase and we have better attendance if the weather cooperates.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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