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From the editor.

It might be the middle of winter now, but I still almost break into a sweat just thinking about how hot it was during my first visit to the Neshoba County Fair in July of 2005. We're talking bacon-frying-on-the-sidewalk hot, except that there were no sidewalks, just cloud-swirling red dirt paths winding around the race track and among the brightly colored cabins.

But what I remember even more than the 100-degree temperature is the sense of history and tradition that fills the fairgrounds. Inside their cabins--most of which to my relief are now air-conditioned--regular fair-goers proudly display posters from past fairs, many signed by visitors as a sort of rural-life guest register. The blue-ribbon-winning quilts, vegetables, fruits, jams, and preserves still displayed each year in a public pavilion wouldn't have been at all out of place at the first annual Neshoba fairs in the 1890s.

There is so much history here that Mississippi's Giant Houseparty, a 2005 book on the fair written by local historian Steven H. Stubbs, consists of a staggering 875 pages. Among the book's insights: the first cabins were built in 1891, the first statewide politician spoke here in 1896, and the first beauty contest was held here in 1933. All these elements are just as important to the fair experience today as they were so many decades ago.

That atmosphere of tradition, I have since learned, isn't confined to the fairgrounds but pervades the entire surrounding town of Philadelphia. At the nearby Williams Brothers general store, descendants of the original owners are marking the old-fashioned business's 100th anniversary this year, and they're serving up more bacon--literally half a ton every day!--and hoop cheese than ever. It seems that both locals and curious visitors are happily bypassing the bigger discount stores in favor of a bit of nostalgia.

From another local fair that pays homage to the even older culture of the Choctaw Indians to a home-cooking restaurant situated inside a quaint old house, there are reminders of happy local traditions everywhere in Philadelphia. Times haven't always been easy in this town, but what's important, say residents, is the spirit of community they all feel today. Writer Glenda Wadsworth takes a closer look at this small-town gem in this issue's travel article, "Touches of Tradition," on page 58.

This issue, our largest ever in 24 and a half years of publishing Mississippi Magazine, also contains the annual Wedding Register, in which more than 300 newlywed couples announce the details of their big days. We've also included feature articles on a few noteworthy weddings and wedding-related parties, with recipes and ideas that can be transferred to any special event.

At the start of 2007, as each of these couples begins their own new family traditions, so do we both honor the positive memories of our state's past and look toward an even brighter future.

Happy New Year!

Kelli L. Bozeman
COPYRIGHT 2007 Downhome Publications, Inc.
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Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Bozeman, Kelli L.
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 1, 2007
Words:483
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