Thursday, April 9, 2009

No.18: Fair Day in Tupelo

Children enjoying a game of chance at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show.

Every year in mid-September, schools in Tupelo and Lee County dismissed for Fair Day. Children who marched in the fair parade were admitted free of charge to the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. The Fair was a big event in Tupelo in my childhood and youth. Downtown stores gave away tickets for chances on cars that were given away by a drawing each night of the Fair. (In the weeks leading up to the Fair, and during Fair week, those cars were prominently parked in different locations around the downtown area with signs on top of them advertising the Fair.) One of my sister's friends won a car before she had a driver's license. When she turned 15 she took possession of her big black Buick.

The Fair featured a mid-way full of rides, games of chance, freak shows and other exotic shows. The kids in the newspaper photo above were playing one of those games of chance. (Look carefully, and you may see someone you recognize.) Various charitable and civic organizations operated booths where hamburgers and hot dogs were sold or where you could play bingo for prizes. And of course Fair visitors walked around eating candy apples and cotton candy.

Of less interest to me, but obviously a lot of interest to some, were the livestock shows and other judged events that were exhibited in the permanent Fair structures. These events were sponsored by the RCDC (Rural Community Development Council) that operated in Lee County.

Elvis made a well-documented appearance and performed at the Fair in 1956. To see several photos from this appearance, visit You can find several excerpts of that performance at using the key words "Elvis Fair 1956." Or you can try for one of those videos.

Thinking about the Fair reminded me of Long's Laundry which was located on the corner of Main Street and the little street that led to the entrance to the Fairgrounds. The most memorable part of the laundry was its neon sign that featured a washerwoman in motion, washing clothes on a scrub-board.

Today the old Fairgrounds have been developed by the City of Tupelo as Fairpark District, a growing collection of retail, office and residential space. The new City Hall is located square in the middle of the old mid-way. (Visit for information about the Fairpark District development.

The new City Hall located in the middle of the old Fair's mid-way.


  1. John, I was so excited to read this. I have the exact same memories as you and that's problably because I am also graduated from THS in 1970. If I had known about this blog earlier, I would have been reading it all along. I will certainly read it regularly from now on.

    Beverly Moore Edwards

  2. I am SO glad that I had the fun of living in Tupelo when "The Fair" was at the fairgrounds.
    I came back one year to visit my brother and we went to the 'new' fair. SUCH a disappointment.