The Neshoba County Fair, also known as Mississippi’s Giant House Party, is an annual event of agricultural, political, and social entertainment held a few miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi. The fair was first established in 1889 and is the nation’s largest campground fair. The event usually starts at the end of July lasting a week.
From the Neshoba County website:
The Neshoba County Fair is called Mississippi’s Giant House Party, and it is just that. Neshoba County families gather from across the country every summer for a week long family reunion and house party like no other.
The Fair cabin is the center of activity for families staying at the fair and the front porch is the most popular place for gathering. Porches are for sitting, visiting and just watching the neighborhood activities. Neighborhoods such as Happy Hollow, Sunset Strip, Founders Square and Greenleaf Hollow all have their own personalities and traditions.
As Robert Craycroft said in The Neshoba County Fair: Place and Paradox in Mississippi, “Conversation is the underlying reality of the Fair. It is the impetus for thousands of people to live in crowded cabins under the intense August sun, and it is the glue that has brought together and has held together generation after generation of Neshoba Countians.”
Great food is another attraction at the Fair. Meals are the result of months of planing and preparation. Friends and visitors that stop by to visit are often invited to stay for a meal. Gallons of tea, lemonade and coolers of ice are always plentiful in every cabin.
There are plenty of other things that make up a day at the Fair besides visiting and eating. There are merry-go-rounds to ride, prizes to win, new friends to make and old ones to see again. There are races to get excited about, exhibits to see and politicians to shake hands with. There’s an antique car parade to watch and something called a chair race that just can’t be explained. In fact the Fair itself can’t really be explained. Only when you’ve walked in the sawdust covered Square on hot summer day can you begin to understand.
The Neshoba County Fair has its roots in the agricultural fairs and the church camp meetings popular in the nineteenth century. The Lake Patron’s Union in Scott County was a regional fair held on the former site of a Methodist camp meeting and served as a model for Neshoba Countians wanting to establish a fair of their own.
The first fair was called the Coldwater Fair and was held in 1889. Two years later in 1891 the fair was organized as a private corporation called the Neshoba County Stock and Agricultural Fair Association and was moved to its present site. Admission was charged for the first time in order to operate the fair. The Neshoba County Fair remains a self-supporting non-profit organization today with operating funds derived mainly from admissions and concessions.
Families coming to the Fair began camping on the grounds for the duration of the fair. In 1894 a pavilion was constructed and a hotel was built to accommodate visitors. Cabins began to replace wagons and tents and in 1898 the oaks were planted that shade Founder’s Square today. The first cabins were simple one story structures with some being log cabins.
In 1896 Governor McLaurin spoke at the Fair which began the tradition of the Neshoba County Fair as a political forum for local, state, and national politicians. Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and John Glenn are among the national figures who have visited the Fair during their campaigns.
Improvements and additions were made to the grounds through the years. The race track was built it 1914 and the Fairgrounds received electricity in 1939. The Fair was not held during World War II, but was reopened in 1946. More cabins were built establishing distinct neighborhoods beyond the Square. The Fair was expanded to a seven day schedule and entertainment began to come from nationally known stars.
The Neshoba County Fair has grown from a two-day meeting of local farmers and their families to an eight day Giant House Party in over 600 cabins and over 200 RV campers. The traditions of the Fair continue today. Families still gather for reunions and friends, old and new, visit every summer as they have since 1889.