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County fairs find new life in this millennium
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Local fairs are finding new life as communities resurrect the excitement of county and regional events across the state this summer and fall.
"Fairs are growing in popularity. They bring us back to the basics of life," said Billy Orr, retired director of the Mississippi State Fair. Orr is directing the organization of the Mississippi Fair Association to help communities plan event dates, and share vendors and ideas.
One of the major emphasis at fairs are livestock shows, which is one reason neighboring counties should not hold fairs at the same time. Exhibitors often travel to nearby counties to compete in as many shows as possible in preparation for the Mississippi State Fair in Jackson.
"County fairs are the real backbone of all the fairs in the country. While county fairs in Mississippi have not been as strong as some other states' (county fairs), the additions of agri-centers in several communities are helping revitalize fairs across the state," Orr said.
Webb Flowers, manager of Mississippi State University's Mississippi Horse Park, AgriCenter and Fairgrounds and the Golden Triangle Regional Fair Commission, said today's fairs are more than just midway rides and livestock shows.
"Every fair is different and has its on theme or specialties," Flowers said. "The one predominant theme is agriculture. Fairs provide opportunities for the general public to get an idea of what agriculture is all about."
Orr said good community support is essential for the success of a fair. Typically, most of the organization falls on the county Extension staff, but community volunteers are extremely important to a fair's success.
"People need to talk it up and take friends and children," Orr said. "It's a great way for kids to learn where products come from, and it's rewarding for fair participants and visitors alike. A memorable outing to a fair can be a great family tradition."
Despite all the work that goes into developing and promoting a fair, the success often depends on an uncontrollable factor: the weather.
"The first year of our regional fair was extremely hot and then we had rain the second year in the middle of the drought," Flowers said. "We're hopeful for much better conditions this fall."
Flowers said his goal for the regional fair is to hit at least 50,000 people in attendance within the next few years.
"Fairs provide educational opportunities, entertainment and economic activity in their communities," he said. "They are an economical source of entertainment, especially because they are close to home and don't require a lot of travel time and expense."
2001 Mississippi Fairs (Chronologically)
Choctaw Indian Fair, Philadelphia, July 11-14
Chickasaw County Fair, Houston, July 17-21
Neshoba County Fair, Philadelphia, July 20-27
Pontotoc County Fair, Dairy and Livestock Shows, Pontotoc, July 23-28
Tippah County Fair and Livestock Show, Ripley, July 28-Aug. 4
Lincoln County Exchange Club Fair, Brookhaven, July 28-Aug. 4 (no Sundays)
Union County Fair and Livestock Show, New Albany, July 30-Aug. 4
Central Mississippi Fair, Kosciusko, Aug. 1-4
Calhoun County Fair and Livestock Shows, Pittsboro, Aug. 7-11
Dawg Days of Summer Festival, Ackerman, Aug. 10-11
Prentiss County Fair, Booneville, Aug. 21-25
Franklin County Fair, Bude, Aug. 22-25
Carroll County Fair, EE Hereford Ranch on Highway 51, Aug. 25
North Mississippi Regional Fair, Verona, Sept. 1-3 livestock shows, Sept. 7-15 midway, etc.
Benton County Fair and Livestock Show, Ashland, Sept. 4-8
Wayne County Fair, Waynesboro, Sept. 4-8
Golden Triangle Regional Fair, MSU AgriCenter, Sept. 6-9
Stone County Fair, Wiggins, Sept. 10-15
Columbus Fair and Livestock Show, Columbus, Sept. 11-15
Scott County Invitational Livestock Show, Forest, Sept. 15
Tishomingo County Fair and Livestock Show, Iuka, Sept. 25-29
Tri-State Fair and Livestock Show, Corinth, Sept. 28-Oct. 7
Queen City Fair, Meridian, Oct. 1-7
George County Fair, Lucedale, Oct. 15-20
South Mississippi Fair and Livestock Shows, Laurel, Oct. 15-21
Jackson County Fair, Pascagoula, Oct. 21-27
Hancock County Livestock Show and Fair, Oct. 24-27