Locals LOVE #TheNeshobaCountyFair

#NeshobaCountyFair Throwback from the 90s: “Big T” and the grands! Tom “Brown” Bailey with Wil Bailey, Katie Bailey, Mary Gates Colvin and Bailey Colvin

It is known as “Mississippi’s Giant House Party,” and for many local families, The Neshoba County Fair is a special week to go to Philadelphia for a week of fun and family.

The Neshoba County Fair began July 21 and continues through July 28 this year at the Neshoba County Fairgrounds in Philadelphia. Residents, as well as friends and family throughout the state (and nation in some cases) make the trip each year.

While those with cabins tend to make or bring homemade delights as friends and family gather for family meals, there’s still plenty of Fair food to go around. Judy Palmertree Hodges loves cotton candy, while Jill Nelson and Shirley Reeves Johnson said they love funnel cakes at the Fair. Lara Threet said she also loves the funnel cakes and especially the Oreo funnel cake.

“And what ever stand that does the funnel cakes has a chicken on a stick that is awesome,” Threet said.

Gaylyn Bailey said she loves Penn’s Chicken on a Stick at the Fair, and her niece, Bailey Colvin loves Penn’s Crawfish Tails and Fries. “Every. Single. Year.”

And all of the Bailey girls love Lindsey’s Lemonade and must have it as part of the Fair experience every year. Mary Gates Colvin said it was her favorite food and drink item at the Neshoba County Fair. Her mom, Christie Bailey Colvin said the polish sausage with onions and peppers along with Lindsey’s Lemonade are musts at the Fair – preferably at midnight!

Food isn’t the only thing that keeps local families making the trip to the Neshoba County Fair year after year, but it is a big factor.

As a child, Christie Bailey Colvin’s family had a cabin at the Fair they called “Bailey’s Barracks.” They sold the cabin when the family moved from Philadelphia, but continued to make the annual trip and stayed with friends. In 2000, family friends built a three-story cabin at the fairgrounds and the Colvins move in with them during “Fair season.”

“Some of the girls earliest memories are from the Fair,” Christie Colvin said. “As a military family that lived all over the country, we always made it home for the week of the fair. It’s just a pull-back to home, back to family and friends that keeps so many people bound. I haven’t been in quite a few years but I still get excited for the girls to go, to keep those traditions and ties going.”

This year will mark the 23rd year for Christie’s daughter, Mary Gates Colvin, to attend the Neshoba County Fair. She said her favorite Fair attraction is the Flea Market.

“I make sure to wake up early in order to go browse before it gets too blooming hot,” Mary Gates Colvin said. “And doing the ‘chair races’– trying to get the best seat for that night’s entertainment. Just run to the middle and forward! My momma has a scar from a chair race injury. People are brutal.”

Mary Gates Colvin said she loves seeing people she hasn’t seen in a year and picking right back up where they left off.

“Also sleeping in a Fair cabin is something everybody should experience,” Mary Gates Colvin said. “It’s cold, dark, and you are sleeping in basically an open room with other people.”

As a child, the Bailey’s lived all around the United States and she and her sister, Bailey, could not wait until Fair time each year.

“We traveled from all across the US every year to come to the fair,” Mary Gates Colvin said. “We felt like it took forever to get there, but we knew when we saw the red dirt we were getting close to having our cabin number sharpied on us and set free.”

Mary Gates Colvin remembers the year family friends built the three-story cabin and they began staying at the fairgrounds all week.

“That was an exciting time,” Mary Gates Colvin said. “I still climb on the same rickety pressboard dresser, that I know is going to fall apart one year, to get on my bunk. Truthfully, I am looking forward to fair cabin sleep. It’s probably because you are so tired and hot but it is the best sleep you will get.”

She said she also loves to wake up every morning to read The Fair Times to see what is happening all over the fairgrounds.

“I think the Fair is something some people hear about and it doesn’t interest them,” Mary Gates Colvin said. “It is something that nobody can get the full experience by reading about it. You won’t truly know what it is all about until you visit and see for yourself. Everybody should go at least once. I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world.”

Susan Burton Craddock said she has basically been going to the fair all of her life. She was raised in Neshoba County.

“There isn’t just one thing that Neshoba County folks love about the Fair, it’s all of it” Craddock said. “The first is the smell of red dirt. You’d have to be from Neshoba County to understand that.”

Craddock said tastes change as she has gotten older, when she was a child, all of the little ones loved the cotton candy and candied apples at the Fair. As an adult, Craddock is a big fan of funnel cake and smoked sausage with peppers and onions. And like so many others, Lindsey’s Lemonade is always on the menu.

“The Fair is a family and class reunion all at the same place (for us),” Craddock said. “We gather to catch up, watch entertainment, dance, laugh, chair race and (not least by no means) the horse races.”

Craddock said there are too many memories to mention, but an all time favorite was the year Ronald and Nancy Reagan came to the Fair.

“They were like family to everyone,” Craddock said.

The Craddocks also love it when Marty Stuart comes back home to Philadelphia and performs at the Fair.

Craddock said she will never forget a Friday night back in the early nineties when her son was fairly young. She was holding his hand.

“The crowd was huge, larger than I’d ever seen,” Craddock said. “We stopped in the midway for food before heading to the grandstands to watch Marty. Everyone had their hands full and suddenly we realized my son was not with us.”

Her husband thought she had him and vice versa. Needless to say, they panicked, thinking he would be lost forever. They hurried back to the midway and stopped to look around.

“There he was,” Craddock said. “A nice lady was sitting with him to wait for his parents to come back. That’s the kind of family Neshoba County is, we all look out for each other on our sacred ground–The Neshoba County Fairgrounds.”

For more information about the Neshoba County Fair, see the Facebook page or go to https://www.neshobacountyfair.org.

This story was originally published in the July 23, 2017 edition of The Starkville Daily News at http://starkvilledailynews.com/content/neshoba-county-fair-special-place-many

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