Politicking is expected to take center stage today and Thursday at the Neshoba County Fair with statewide candidates pushing their platforms under the tin-roofed pavilion on Founders Square and elsewhere to those who will listen.

Among the candidates scheduled to speak today are those running for lieutenant governor, commissioner of transportation and attorney general. (See complete schedule, page 3B)

The Meridian Day program, presented by East Mississippi Development Corp., begins at 11 a.m. today on Founders Square while the youth talent contest is set for 3 p.m.

The Trace Adkins Show takes the stage at the grandstand tonight while the A. J. Yates Jr. Memorial Late Night Sing gets under way at 1 a.m. at the pavilion.

The Fair began on Friday with a soaking rain and high winds. In Beverly Hills, cabin owners got an early fireworks show when the electrial lines that run down the middle of the street began wrapping around each other and arching. The lights blinked, but they never went out.

Nights especially have been unseasonably cool with temperatures dropping into the 60s, prompting some Fairgoers to break out sweatshirts and heavier garments.

Gubernatorial candidate John Arthur Eaves, a Democrat, is scheduled to address Fairgoers on Thursday at 10:50 a.m., while Gov. Haley R. Barbour, a Republican, is scheduled at 11 a.m.

Other candidates for governor, Fredrick Jones, (R) and Louis Fondren (D), will speak beginning at 1 p.m.

Candidates for state treasurer, secretary of state, and commissioner of insurance are also scheduled to speak on Thursday.

The Hometown Proud program, sponsored by the Tourism Council, begins at 11:15 a.m. Thursday on Founders Square. (See story page 19A)

The Hinds Community College Hi-Steppers will perform at 12:30 p.m. followed by a concert by the Neshoba Central High School Band.

The Keith Anderson Show will be at the grandstand Thursday at 8 p.m.

Friday Fairgoers will be entertained by The Vernon Brothers at the grandstand beginning at 1 p.m. The Billy Currington Show will be at the grandstand at 8 p.m.

Weather permitting, immediately afterwards, there will be a fireworks show by Pyrotechnico.

Dance music by the Ben Shaw Band begins at 9:30 p.m. at the pavilion on Friday with the 2007 Fair officially closing at midnight.

Fairgoers on Saturday watched Tyler Stanfield of Birmingham win the 28th annual Heart O'Dixie triathlon. Stanfield led a starting field of 278 across the finish line at the Fairgrounds, completing a 35-mile course that started with a half-mile swim at Lake Tiak O'Khata in Louisville.

His finished with a time of 1:57:08.

"The weather was great for the triathlon," Stanfield, 25, said. "The running part was my strongest part. I am weakest in swimming." (See story page 16B)

Deanna Frank of Birmingham became a four-time overall winner in the women's division of the Heart O'Dixie. She finished 11th overall with a time of 2:10:11.

Monday night Fairgoers saw Meagan Martin, 17, being crowned Miss Neshoba County.

Martin, the daughter of Ike and Carla Martin, received a $300 cash award from the Fair Association and a two-year scholarship to East Central Community College.

During the pageant, Martin was asked on stage which would she prefer, to be beautiful or smart?

"Smart," Martin answered confidently. "If you are smart you can find a way to be beautiful."

First runner up was Brandi Shea Covington, 17, daughter of Stanley and Valerie Covington.

Second runner up was Amber Madison, 18, daughter of Lynda and Sam Madison and Kim Madison and Allen Madison.

The other finalists were Britney Laine Ellingburg, 20, daughter of Frankie and Lori Ellingburg; Juliana Fulton, 18, daughter of Al and Bridget Fulton; and Regan Michele Barrier, 17, daughter of Tonia Ward and Stephen and Lana Barrier.

Miss Congeniality was Jordan McMichael, 17, daughter of Jack and Janis McMichael. Miss Photogenic honors went to Miss Barrier while Miss Fulton received the Fairwear award.

Madison Hardy captured the Fair's 2007 Youth Achievement award Monday night. She is the daughter of Mike and Sarah Hardy of Philadelphia.

Free shuttle rides for the elderly and handicapped will be available throughout the rest of the week, allowing easy access on the Fairgrounds. Stops include Founders Square pavilion, the grandstand and Gate 1 ticket office.

For the second year, there is a handicapped parking lot at Gate 2.

The shuttle will run from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Harness and running horse races continue daily at 2 p.m. while the midway opens at 1 p.m. featuring Rebel Amusement Rides Inc. The exhibit hall is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily while be U. S. Post Office, Neshoba County Fair Station, is open from noon until 4 p.m.

First aid at the Fair is provided by personnel from Neshoba County General Hospital in a station under the grandstands while an ambulance will be available in case of emergency. (In case of emergency on the Fairgrounds, dial 911.)

Local volunteer fire departments are also providing fire protection throughout the week.

Season tickets are $30 while day tickets are $15.