CABIN #16, NESHOBA COUNTY FAIR – The first weekend of Mississippi’s annual “Giant House Party” is one of unmatched relaxation.
The entire Fair is relaxed when you get right down to it– with the exception of the injection of sometimes heated politics on Wednesday and Thursday.
Overall, the Fair is a week filled with wild Saturday nights, and lazy Sunday afternoons. Laziness isn’t a horrid trait at the Neshoba County Fair. It’s a required one, just for this week.
Mornings typically come a little later at the Fair due to the late nights. The coffee doesn’t start percolating until closer to 9 a.m., after which everyone matriculates to the front porch to claim a rocking chair, porch swing, or comfortable spot on the bench. It’s from there that you wave at the passers-by, greet your neighbors congregated on their front porches, and rehash stories from the often wild night that has passed.
Once your coffee has taken full effect, you might even take to the dirt roads and go visiting, or simply hunker down in your rocker and let the visitors come to you.
If you’re not relaxing, you’re likely eating. Meals tend to overlap one another at the Fair. The kitchen table is rarely without a spread of food, which leads to constant nibbling. Diets crash and burn at the Fair. No one could be expected to skimp on Penn’s classic catfish and fries, the giant funnel cakes showered in powdered sugar, Sid Salter’s etouffee, my wife Lisa’s taco dip, pork tenderloin and homemade Butterfinger ice cream, Leilani Salter’s breakfast casserole, and the constant barrage of new cookies, cakes and pies being delivered.
This year we had an extra special treat – six dozen hot tamales shipped from Fat Mama’s in Natchez. My only mistake was forgetting to take some hot sauce. They still went down with great ease and satisfaction.
Last Friday night I ventured next door to Cabin 14 where Snooky Williams of Water Valley was hosting a celebration christening his newly completed cabin, complete with champagne and hors d’oeuvres aplenty (the fried chicken was a personal favorite).
Saturday was the Heart ‘O Dixie Triathlon and the Arts and Crafts on Founders’ Square. I survived both by not participating, although Lisa made up for my lack of purchases at the Arts and Crafts by finding several dresses and bows for granddaughter Addi Claire.
Saturday night, Thacker Mountain Radio from Oxford took center stage at the Founders’ Square pavilion. Cabin-mate Sid Salter was asked to be part of the program during which he read his column about my late father-in-law Gale Denley and their shared times sitting in our two rocking chairs on the front porch at the Fair.
“We laughed in those chairs. Late at night, we'd sneak a cigar or a glass of cheap Scotch. Once, we bet on which of two meandering armadillos would cross the Square first at 3 a.m. I won $20 that night.
“Sometimes, we just sat there quietly rocking - the peace and quiet broken only by laughter or ‘remember whens?’
“In those chairs, we listened to most of the important political speeches given in Mississippi over two decades - and cheered and jeered them in whispers that only the two of us could hear,” Sid read poignantly.
I found time over the first weekend to visit often with newspaper friend Jim Prince of Philadelphia, Bruce natives Kent and Tammy Moore and their beautiful daughter Olivia, and walk the fairgrounds pulling granddaughter Addi Claire in her new wagon, probably the highlight of the first weekend for me.
Sunday I caught a brief glimpse of the start of the horse races and promised friends of my return before coming home to get to work on the family newspaper. We’ll return in time for the politics to take center stage later this week. Thankfully the politicos give way each night for the bright lights of the midway, concerts, fireworks and a lot more time with friends and family.
There’s still a lot more fried, sugary food begging to be eaten, old stories to be told and heard, and new memories to be made. I’m eager to get back and do my part.