Meridian Day: A time-honored happening
HOPE YOU'RE HUNGRY – Gerald Mills, left, shows Bob Sutton and Joe Johnson around his cabin Wednesday during Meridian Day at the Neshoba County Fair. Gerald and Janice Mills treated Meridianites to lunch on their back porch. His welcome to all was, "Thank you for coming. It's no fun by yourself. Hope you're good and hungry." Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie / staff writer
Aug. 1, 2002
PHILADELPHIA The clouds parted around noon Wednesday, about the same time the crowd arrived for barbecue pork and chicken at Gerald and Janice Mills' cabin.
The Mills family, of Meridian, were unofficial hosts for Meridian Day at the Neshoba County Fair. Gerald, 54, said there has been a Meridian Day at the fair as long as he could remember, going back to when his grandfather carried him among the attractions in his arms.
Gerald is regional manager of the Mississippi Development Authority. He has had cabin 512 at the fairgrounds for about 15 years in an area known as "Little Milwaukee," established in 1975.
According to Ray and Ann Dunn, of Philadelphia, owners of neighboring cabin 513, the name came from Eddie Watkins, who built their cabin the same year. The Dunns bought the cabin from Watkins in 1977.
Ray, 61, was born in Meridian at East Mississippi State Hospital, where both of his parents worked. The Neshoba County Fair has been a memory throughout his life, as well. As a younger man, he knew Watkins as the owner of the first place to buy beer on the Lauderdale County line and founder of "Little Milwaukee."
Ann even closed her antique shop, Attic Treasures, on Highway 19 north of Philadelphia.
The Dunns remember when there was more seclusion and less comfort at the fair. Ray said he wanted a cabin of his own since the early 1950s, when his parents let him spend a couple of nights at the fair with a friend.
When he got a little older he would camp out on the fairgrounds in his pickup truck. Ann's first experience at the fair was after she married Ray 41 years ago. She said that was in the days when the luxury cabins had screens because there was no air conditioning.
Ray's sister, Vicky Dunn Argoe, recalled renting a cabin with her teenage friends in the 1950s.
Following Meridian Day tradition Navy bean soup was served up for hungry fair-goers by Naval Air Station-Meridian and representatives from Alliance Health Center, Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center, Riley Hospital and Rush Foundation Hospital provided lemonade.
Tom Maynor of Meridian was making the rounds at cabins Wednesday. He is dean of the Lifetime Quest program at Meridian Community College and president of the Meridian Stroke Support and Education Group. He has been going to the fair for 33 years.
He described the fair as a place where anyone can go into any cabin and be welcomed. He was invited to have lunch at three different cabins shortly after he arrived on Meridian Day. He said he would hit all three, for an appetizer, dinner and dessert.
Meridian Day festivities were organized by the city, the Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau and the East Mississippi Business Development Corp. It also included presentations by Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith, Craig Hitt, president of the Lauderdale County board of supervisors, and the unveiling of the 36th carousel horse in the Around Town Carousels Abound public arts program "Fair Filly," which was returned to Meridian later in the day and will be placed on permanent display at Luke &Kaye Architects, 821 22nd Ave.