How do I explain the Neshoba County Fair to someone who has never been? Like I heard this week, the fair is so many things to so many people. To kids it's the midway. To teenagers, it's young love (the old saying is if a relationship can make it through the fair, its made to last). To young adults, it's party hard. To the older generation, it's family, family, family.
So how do you explain the fair? You can't really. Its something you have to experience. Growing up and going to the fair produced alot of great memories for me. But as happens, life goes on and taking a week out of your life as an adult to go to the fair isn't as easy anymore. After graduating college, Brad and I moved out of state, and although I do remember leaving Louisiana late one night and arriving at the fairgrounds around midnight, (hey, right on time!) we didn't do that but once. Then the kiddos started arriving and the fair just wasn't a priority at that time in my life.
My desire to go back to the fair actually started last year. I was in Wal-Mart doing a little shopping and my cousin called me on my cell phone. I went to the dog food aisle (cuz I can't shop and talk at the same time) and stood there and talked to her. She was at the fair, and the sounds of the fairgrounds were all around her. I swear I could almost smell the sawdust through that phone! It was right then and there I knew I had to get back.
And I did. This year I loaded up my two kids, one whom had never been to the fair and the other whom was so young the last time he was there didn't remember anything but the smell of sawdust (whats up with the sawdust memories?)
Driving down Hwy. 21, I felt like a kid again. My stomach had butterflies just like it used to in the backseat of my aunt's car. She was my ride to and from the fairgrounds back then, and I never thought she was driving fast enough! Didn't she know I was in the backseat about to hyperventilate just thinking about all the fun I was about to have? Step on it lady!
Now I was that lady in the driver's seat. My two kids were started to get excited and nervous and to be honest, I was more nervous about finding a parking spot than anything. It had started to rain, and I wanted to park somewhere I could get out of when it was time. Luckily I found a good parking spot. It was on the grass, almost at the top of the hill, and near the gate we were entering. So far so good. We put on our rubber boots and off we went.
We got to the cabin and picked out our beds. The kids were thrilled to choose bunk beds although Poptart ended up in the bed with me. She now says I wouldn't let her sleep on the top bunk but that's not exactly true. After she climbed up and down the ladder about 25 times, I suggested she just get in the bed with me. She did and was asleep in no time.
I can't explain the fair to you any more than Brad can truly explain Alaska's beauty to me. It's just something you have to see.
This year was a big, no, HUGE political year at the fair. Politicians in Mississippi have said you cannot miss the Neshoba County Fair and expect to get elected. I missed all the political speeches, and that's the one thing I really wish I would've gotten to see, but they started early and on days we weren't there.
The horse races are another thing to see. The harness races, then running races, and even a few mule races. The harness races are my favorite to watch, and I have a few memories of my daddy at the fair watching the horse races. Here's a video I found on YouTube of a harness race:
After the horse races are over, something extraordinary happens. The chair race.
Lemme just go on record: I had no intention, and never even dreamed I would be in the chair race this year. Until my cousin Matthew came to the cabin in somewhat of a hurry grabbing a couple of chairs for him and his wife. And again, I knew I had to get back. Back to that adrenaline rush of the chair race. I started counting out lawn chairs I could find at the cabin, one for me, one for Gogurt, one for Poptart, one for Wendy, and one for the friend Wendy was bringing. Five chairs, that's alot for one person. Matthew offered to help, but he is a pro at the chair race and I didn't want to slow him down with my extra chairs. Hmmm, would Gogurt help?
I hurriedly explained the chair race, in the most positive light possible, and he agreed to do it. We threw on our rubber boots and went to the racetrack.
My heart was pounding - I couldn't believe I was doing this! Plus, I was having to worry about Gogurt too. I didn't want him to be hurt or scared, and as an old college buddy of mine who we ran into told him, "You don't have to outrun the person ahead of you, just all these people behind you." When that gate opens, you can't back out. You gotta go. Right then. It's craziness, I tell you. Neal McCoy, who watched the chair race from backstage, called us a bunch of "crazy*** rednecks" in his concert that night. Of course, he meant that as a compliment, and everyone in the crowd took it as such. But don't take his word for it - watch this video. Remember, this is not the actual chair race we were in. In fact, I think this is from last year, but this will give you an idea of what the chair race is. Matthew's wife did video the chair race we were in Thursday but for some reason when she emailed it to me, it didn't come through. So for now you will just have to watch this one:
The chair races were probably my favorite part of my fair experience this year. Its like nothing you will ever do anywhere else.
The question was posed to me this week if I thought I could stay at the fair for the entire week like I used to. Honestly, no, I don't think I could. I might could stay more than the 2 nights we did this year, but I don't think I could hang in there for all 8. I would want to go home for at least a night or two to get a good night's sleep and a good shower in my own bathroom.
Speaking of a good night's sleep, one morning I awoke around 7:30 a.m. which is extremely early for the fair. The only people up that early are old people or people with young children. I guess I fall into the latter category, but since my young children were still asleep, I just laid in bed enjoying the fact I had woke up at the fair and didn't have to get out of bed until I was good and ready. At 7:50 a.m. (I know cuz I looked at my phone) someone, yes, someone much, much younger than me, came to bed. For the night. Or should I say for the day. I couldn't help but grin and think, "only at the fair."
Overall, my 2011 fair experience was a good one. Got to see lots of family I don't normally see except at Thanksgiving, Christmas, a wedding, or a funeral. We ate lots of good food as well. But most importantly, I felt I was handing down a tradition to my kids, who are already asking to go back next year.
As I said in an earlier post, the fair is kind of a "farewell-to-summer celebration." Neshoba County schools start Thursday. However, my kids have all this week to rest up. They start school on Monday the 8th.
Thanks for reading and who knows, one of these days, I just might run into you at the fair.....