Tradition-steeped Neshoba County Fair coming next month

NESHOBA COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - The 148-acre Neshoba County Fairground near Philadelphia is largely empty right now, aside from a few construction crews and some early-arriving RV’ers. But for one week every summer, the fairgrounds are packed with people who have been coming here for generations.

Neshoba County Fair (Source: WLBT)
Neshoba County Fair (Source: WLBT)

Doug Johnson, who has been associated with the fair for about 40 years and now serves as its director, says the fair is so unique that one really has to experience it first-hand even to begin to understand it.

Doug Johnson, manager of the Neshoba County Fair (Source: WLBT)
Doug Johnson, manager of the Neshoba County Fair (Source: WLBT)

It was first organized in 1889 and has evolved into a week-long live-in house party with more than 600 permanent, individually-owned cabins that range from basic to luxurious.

“Some of them can probably sleep as many as 60 people," Johnson says. "It’s amazing.”

The fair has the usual array of food vendors, midway rides, and live concerts. It also has horse racing.

Neshoba County Fair (Source: WLBT)
Neshoba County Fair (Source: WLBT)

“We have not only harness racing, but we have running-horse racing as well,” Johnson says. “We have people who come from as far as Texas to bring horses to race at this fair.”

The political signs are already up in anticipation of the long tradition of candidates rallying support. This is where Ronald Reagan gave his first speech after winning the GOP presidential nomination in 1980.

Johnson says the crowd that day was enormous.

“I don’t know where they parked, and I don’t know how they got here or where they found a spot down at the stage there when they got here, but it was one of the largest crowds we have ever had at the fair.”

More recently, Donald Trump Junior drew a huge crowd three years ago.

WLBT’s late legendary weatherman Woodie Assaf used to preside over “Jackson Day” at the fair, and folks like former Governor William Winter have spoken there numerous times, most recently in 2014.

One thing that never changes is the weather. It’s always in the summer, so it’s always hot.

“Come dressed appropriately," suggests Johnson. “It’s either dusty or muddy, one or the other.”

This year’s Neshoba County Fair runs July 26-August 2. This is an election year, so you can expect a full schedule of political stumping.

Full details and schedules, once finalized, can be found on the fair’s website.

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