Mississippi’s ‘house party’ kicks off today

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2009 AP file photograph

Fairgoers wait for another event outside their cabins at the Neshoba County Fair.

 

The Neshoba County Fair opens today, and memories run deep about this Mississippi institution.

“As a child I would even walk from my house to the fairgrounds when my mom and dad didn’t want to go as early as I did,” laughed Douglas Johnson, Neshoba County Fair manager and vice presidemt of the Neshoba County Fair Association Inc.

A native of Neshoba county, Johnson has been involved in organizing the fair the past 23 years.

The fair began in 1889, then called the Coldwater Fair, and has been an essential part of the Neshoba County community since.

Trademarked as the “Giant House Party,” participants from across the United States and some foreign countries travel to Neshoba County the same time each year for food, entertainment and Mississippi culture.

“It’s something that just kinda gets in your blood,” said Johnson.

One hundred and seventy-five acres of land, 598 cabins and 520 camp sites will start filling up with participants today, which features the fair’s “free night.” From 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., participants have free entry and the fair will sell $25 tickets for unlimited carnival rides.

Friday morning at 7 a.m., the ticket box opens, selling both a $40 season pass, which admits one to all events for the duration of the week-long fair, or, a $15 dollar day ticket. And emphasizing the family nature of the event, there’s free admission for children age 9 and under. Food, drink and carnival fees are separate. The Neshoba County Fair Association, Inc., is a non-profit organization and operates from the admission and concession fees.

The week-long fair will include a rodeo and antique car and arts and crafts shows. Musical concerts by Nashville stars Jana Kramer and Chris Janson and The Charlie Daniels Band will return for the third year. A children’s concert and a petting zoo is offered as well.

The fair is celebrated for its long history as a political stumping ground, with speech making by local, state and national political figures. The political presence here began in 1896 when Gov. Anselm McLaurin spoke.

This year Johnson predicts a crowd increase due to the presidential election year. Donald Trump Jr. is scheduled to make an appearance Tuesday afternoon to shake hands.

State and local politicians will provide the political rhetoric on Wednesday and Thursday. One of the more entertaining lineups has state Attorney Gen. Jim Hood, a Democrat, speaking right before Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, on Thursday morning, around 10:30 a.m. The two have feuded publicly off and on since the Legislature enacted state budget changes in April.

Thursday’s speaker lineup includes U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker while Gov. Phil Bryant concludes the speeches.

You can find the full schedule of events and other information here.