Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Sid Salter: Cancelled Neshoba County Fair is a microcosm of COVID-19 realities

Longtime readers of this column know of my deep and abiding affection for the Neshoba County Fair and the old-time political speaking under shade of the old oaks and the tin roof of the Founder’s Square Pavilion.


At the 2019 Fair, during a courthouse-to-statehouse election cycle, there were just over seven hours of political speaking at Neshoba. This year, there will be none in the traditional sense due to the cancellation of the 130-year-old event by action of the Neshoba County Fair Association’s board of directors.

Citing COVID-19 public safety and health concerns, the Fair Board unanimously determined that the campground fair could not effectively and safely hold the event and still comply with federal and state guidelines. The decision was greeted with both praise and criticism from the general public and the Fair Association membership alike.

The closure dovetailed with the May 28 decision to cancel the 2020 Choctaw Indian Fair by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, with Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben citing COVID-19 concerns as the reason.

Neshoba County has long been the economic beneficiary of the dual fairs. But the cancellation decisions had a strong basis in COVID-19 data. Neshoba County has one of the state’s top COVID-19 outbreak totals and was for a time the target of special social distancing and screening guidelines from Gov. Tate Reeves.

As the county’s positive COVID-19 case totals rose to third highest in the state, Reeves earlier ordered Neshoba County businesses to provide screening and masks for employees and asked patrons to wear face coverings inside businesses.

Compounding the situation was the unusually high incidence of COVID-19 among the Choctaw population. Among the more than 820 positive cases in the county, almost 500 were Native Americans.

The Neshoba County Fair closure marks the first time since World War II that the annual event will not be held. For the record, the event voluntarily shut down in 1942, 1943, 1944, and 1945 before resuming operations in 1946.

Jim Prince, publisher of The Neshoba Democrat, consulted his own newspaper’s archives and reported that during the war, reasons for cancelling the event varied from gas and tire shortages to an absence of “fair spirit” while the nation was at war in Europe and the Pacific.

My late friend and fairground neighbor “Snooky” Williams of Water Valley, who often spoke eloquently to national correspondents for National Geographic and The New York Times about his love for the event, often lamented those fairs during his youth lost to the war effort, but said: “I was too young to fight in World War II, but even at 13 I knew that as much as we all loved and missed the Fair, we didn’t have any business being out here (the fairgrounds) while our friends and kin were over there (overseas).”

As a fair cabin owner and Fair Association member, I saw the board’s cancellation decision as an incredibly difficult one, but at the same time the right and responsible one. I believe the Fair Board should be commended for their courage in foregoing the popular for the prudent.

Yet on social media, the debate raged between those relieved by the decision and those enraged about it. The tone and tenor of that debate, like the ongoing culture wars over COVID-19 and the resulting economic shutdown, is a microcosm of where our country is politically.

On one side, there are those who defiantly refuse to wear masks, practice social distancing, or practice rigorous handwashing or disinfectant protocols. They want to go where they want, without restriction, and without a nod to what other people say or think on the subject.

On the other side are those who see such health and safety practices as the minimum acceptable reaction to a global pandemic – and see those who disagree as irresponsible.

There are some as yet unconfirmed rumbles about an effort to cobble together a virtual political stump speech program sanctioned by fair organizers and available online via Zoom or WebEx or another medium. Stay tuned.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Plus - it will help save some of the ozone layer that is left plus reduce greenhouse carbon emissions. Win Win for Mississippi

Anonymous said...

Lawmakers couldn't be happier. They wont be put in the public spotlight on the flag issue. Hoseman and Gunn collective "Whew".

Anonymous said...

Agreed @8:07am - the amount of hot air spewed by elected officials at this thing have to be killing the atmosphere (and our limited brain cells) Win!

Anonymous said...

Keep Covid alive and scaring folks, please. Unfortunately traffic has picked back up and some more folks out. Miss the mid Covid period of light traffic and few folks running around.

So Sorry Sid Salter said...

So sorry Sid. This ruins your annual event where you get schmoozed by hundreds who pass by and admire your cabin and your straw hat. Maybe somebody will organize a drive by of your house in Starkpatch - Balloons, small gifts, burgers, lawn jumps, the whole works.

Regarding The Economy said...

Let's get to the point! How will affect Seer-Sucker-Sales?

Anonymous said...

We may be over Covid, but Covid ain’t over.

Anonymous said...

Each year, my wife loves to go to the Neshoba County Fair to visit old friends. With the Fair being cancelled, I'm happy that I don't have to take her and walk around in the heat and dust all day and continuously saying "That's nice!" which is code for my real thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I can’t think of a worse way to spend a day than at the Neshoba County Fair.

Anonymous said...

Anything that upsets Sid Salter's applecart is music to my ears!

Anonymous said...

Dirty, hotter than hades, gross food, dangerously close fire hazards in redneck utopia.

The NCF should start with a day in prayer for the murdered civil rights workers.

Here’s hoping fire sweeps through it again and burns it down again.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:56. Covid, Covid-19 aka: C-19 is here for good. Just becoming irrelevant unless Politically expedient.

Anonymous said...

DOJ takes aim at law that shields tech companies from lawsuits over material their users post

Farewell to these type sites which foster hate and untruths

Kingfish said...

And what untruths does this website publish?

Anonymous said...

This was the correct decision given the continued community spread of the disease. People walking in close proximity, stopping to talk loudly over the noise, and cabin hopping all night is going to be very risky. Add to that the fact there are a lot of older people in attendance and the absolute lack of mitigation by the younger crowd and you would have had a large number of bad cases and deaths.

On the other hand, if we had done what we could to contain the disease after the initial lockdown and achieved a substantial reduction in cases like other countries did, maybe the committee would have thought it safe enough to continue. Oh well, the people who would have attended have nobody to blame but the average Mississippian and their ignorance of the pandemic.

Anonymous said...

It's not untruths, I have never seen one here. It's the truths that you won't publish that pisses me off. Otherwise your a good guy Kingfish.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes the truth pisses me off too.

Anonymous said...

Salter is the microcosm of talent. A year can't pass without his mentioning his having a cabin at the fair. WHO cares??!!

Anonymous said...

About time they shut down this old geezy/boomer convention down for good anyway.

Anonymous said...

" A year can't pass without his mentioning his having a cabin at the fair. WHO cares??!! ?

So glad someone else has noticed that.

Sid mentions that because he thinks it might impress someone.

The Neshoba County Fair is worth a visit.
( For an hour of two)

But if I wish to be around a bunch of swetty drunk rednecks . . . give me the Flora-Bama any day.

Anonymous said...

Been once. I have never been hotter or felt dirtier. Never intend to go back. However there are thousands of people who just love going, and will miss going this year. Better them than me.

Neshoba born and raised - red clay in the blood said...

Its fine with everybody at the Neshoba County Fair that all you folks who don't like it, hate it, don't like the weather, don't like the people, don't like the entertainment, or whatever ---- to keep your ass out.

We're fine with that. You don't like it - same as if you don't like a column that KF posts here. You don't have to read his columns, and you don't have to come to the fair.

Believe me - those of us that enjoy it, as Sid does, can understand why some folks who didn't grow up with this as a family tradition wouldn't like it. Doesn't hurt our feelings as all. But for our friends that have come to like it even though they didn't grow up with it, we are sorry we won't get to spend that time with them.

There is a hell of a lot more to the "fair" than the political speaking that Sid referenced in this column (probably because many of the folks who read his column do so for 'political commentary'). For myself, having a Zoom pretend-like speaking schedule doesn't rock my boat. I will miss hearing some of the speeches -- but I will miss the horse races, the all-night sing, seeing friends, spending time with family, and lots and lots more.

As many do, I think the board made the correct decision even though I hated to hear it when it was finalized. There is no way that it could have been safely held this year with the pandemic still as active as it is.

I'm glad that those of you that hate it won't have to worry about having it to hate this year. For those of us that love it, we are just looking forward to a bigger and better one next year.

And for most of you that have posted here - keep your butts away and we won't miss you at all. We will, though, enjoy seeing the thousands of friends that come to visit at our houseparty when they show up next July.

Anonymous said...

@4:41, no, Sid doesn't mention he 'has a cabin' because he thinks it will impress anyone; he mentions it just as others might mention that they are a member of a fraternity, or a civic club.

Its a club. Its a group. Its family. Mentioning that one 'has a cabin' has nothing to do with impressing anyone, just as you talking about the condo you are going to rent at the FloraBama isn't intended to impress.

I've spent plenty of days at the FloraBama, and enjoyed most of them. Just as I've spent many summers at the Fair and enjoyed all of them. My telling stories about the FloraBama, or Navarre Beach (I'm not a 30A person) has nothing to do with impressing, but to talk about fun times. Same thing as with a fair cabin.

Hell, I know lots of folks that talk about staying at a fair cabin that they have no (ownership) interest in, but they talk just as if it was theirs. Not to impress - but its about friends and family.

Hope you have fun at FloraBama since that's where you like to spend time. I have no envy - evidently unlike some.

Kingfish said...

Heaven forbid he should write about a Mississippi tradition he enjoys.

Anonymous said...

The Neshoba County Fair is simply a trailer park from before trailers were invented. Same loudmouths, same red necks, different construction.

Anonymous said...

Sid doesn't 'write about a tradition he enjoys'. Everything he writes is intended to make people wish they were him. FAIL.

Anonymous said...

Yes it's hot and miserable but that's the way we like it. The people from the 4 Corners area are about as genuine as you can get. Most of them made their money moving dirt, hauling logs, or some form of labor. The NCF was a great place to fight, drink and chase women without anyone judging you too harshly. And you have some really nice people there in the cabins that are just taking a break from the everyday wear and tear of life.

Ghost of Hodding Carter said...

Over the past century, The Clarion Ledger has cultivated a host of outrageous egos. Several are still alive.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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