The Neshoba County Fair, deemed "Mississippi's Giant House Party," welcomed Wednesday the annual participants of Meridian Day as booths were set up to show Neshoba County and Philadelphia residents what Meridian and Lauderdale County have to offer.
Meridian and Lauderdale County leaders wanted to also make clear that this day was not only to tout their home county but to also encourage neighboring counties and cities to join in making eastern Mississippi a place in which economic growth and family living can flourish.
"We are trying to grow economic development not on a local scale but regionally as well," said Wade Jones, president of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation. "We are trying hard to work with our partners and neighbors to continue to develop the workforce to man the industries we hope to convince to come to our area."
Meridian Mayor Percy Bland echoed Jones' sentiments toward the importance of partnerships.
"What is good for one area of our state can be equally as good for another part," Bland said. "We are working to market ourselves, not just Meridian and Lauderdale County, but all of East Mississippi, and package everything we have to offer. That is why it is important to be here. We need to stay in touch and make those connections that will benefit everyone."
The annual event takes place among the shade trees and cabins of a fair steeped in history. Although Charlsie F. Moore has not been around for all of the 124 Neshoba County Fairs, she has been a part of 31 of them as a hostess. She said the best images that come out of the fair are those of families who meet at the cabins each year for reunions.
"I taught for many years at Neshoba Central and I enjoy seeing my former students, many of who are now adults with children of their own," Moore said. "Throughout the years I've seen many a happy moment here at the fair."
Some of the largest employers of Lauderdale County are always on hand at the fair. Meridian Day has traditions that go easily with the other customs of the fair. What would a Meridian Day be without the Navy beans served by personnel of Naval Air Station Meridian?
"We just love doing this," said Susan Junkins, public affairs officer for the base. "Bean soup is our tradition we give to the fair and the people. We also want them to come and meet the young men and women who train on board the base to keep America free."
Mississippi State University-Meridian representatives like the fair because they can recruit potential students to the campus.
"We always want to support Meridian and Lauderdale County because it is our home but we also want prospective students to learn more about MSU-Meridian and what we have to offer," said Candy Adams, recruiting coordinator for the college. "We have a great curriculum and opportunities for the student."
Wednesday and today are also opportunities for politicians to come to the fair and talk to the people. Next year will be an election year for many and the Mississippi GOP wanted to get a jump on what may be a challenging election.
MSGOP Chairman Joe Nosef said the party is growing stronger and more united as it builds momentum toward 2014. Nosef said including Wednesday's lineup of speakers, 11 elected officials, including Gov. Phil Bryant today, will speak under the pavilion at Founders Square.
For some fair attendees, it is the politicians they have come to see.
"I want to hear what they have to say," said Margaret Jenson of Sebastopol. "I have a very good memory and if they do something different than what they said, I will remember that when it comes time for me to vote."
The fair continues on for the rest of this week and winds up this weekend.