Welcome to the Fair 2011! We begin our news coverage with greetings from Lance Duncan who is on assignment with the 298th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion. Lance writes, "This will be my first Fair to miss ever, but my heart will be there." Lance's mother, Clara Jo Duncan, was my first friend to have an air conditioned "room" at the Fair.

I went down to her cabin (southwest corner of the square) one hot afternoon to play bridge, got sleepy, talked someone into playing my hand, and went into the "cool" room to "rest my eyes." When I woke up, evening had descended, the party was over and everyone had gone home. We'll save you a place in the "cool" room next Fair, Lance.

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Our hearts and prayers are with all our military that are missing the Fair this year. This includes my #1 grandson, First Lieutenant Benjamin Darby Evans. Chronologically, Daniel Darby Evans is my #2 grandson, and Charles Harold Evans, #3. In my heart, they are one big lump.

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Frances (Mrs. Richard) Molpus was invited to visit the Summer Reading Tutorial Program which was held this summer at the Westside Community Center. While some of the children had trouble saying "Molpus," they knew what it had meant to the reading program since its inception in 1987.

In 1986, the late Courtney (Jack) Tannehill, who was librarian at the Neshoba County Public Library, saw the need for a summer program that would assist children who had fallen behind in their reading skills. While in the process of seeking funding for the program, Richard Molpus volunteered, "Frances and I can do that." Dick and Sally Molpus continue to fund the program which has helped hundreds of children in the past 24 years. Quoting Dick, "As long as there are children in Neshoba County who need help with their reading, we intend to be there."

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The program is under the direction of Madonna May, library director. This summer's instructors have been Jan Thompson, Tammy Whitney and Janet Warren. Frances shared with the children a bit of wisdom passed on to her by her father, the late Henry Blount who served Neshoba County as superintendent of education. As follows, "Our brain is empty when we are born. It is our responsibility to fill it with good knowledge." The Molpus family has certainly made a great contribution toward that goal, and we are grateful.

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I talked with Margaret Jordan who took a break from her summer job as a volunteer at the Community Development Partnership office for her annual visit with Hadley, Dawn Lea, Jeremy and Charlie Chalmers in Falmouth, Mass. Make that Cape Cod, to paint a clearer picture. "We'd get up late, eat breakfast and spend the whole day on Knob Beach. It was always cool and breezy, never hot." Vacation time over, you'll see Margaret, along with Brett Whitlock, on the Fairground assisting Kaye Rowell, tourism director, in CDP Fair projects.

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Benjy Marshall co-smoked with Jason Perry as the "Team Homegrown" to become winners in the first annual Shady Lane Smoke-off at the Fair the Fourth of July weekend. They won the trophy for Overall Grand Champions and placed first in the brisket category. To say that Benjy was "raised with smoke in his eyes" is a pretty true statement. His dad, Ben Allen Marshall, built a grill in 1981, cutting the body from a propane tank and mounting it on a military weapon. I must inject here that Ben proudly served his country as a member of the National Guard. Quoting Benjy, "Originally Dad would pull the grill back and forth from the Fairground to the deer camp each season. After the new cabin was built about 10 years later, there was no longer an opening large enough for the grill to get through, so it has stayed put since."

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There was almost always smoke coming from the grill as long as Ben lived. I can still almost smell the "come on" smokey aroma of the link sausage he cooked every night about midnight. Ben, dubbed the "Marshall of Sunset Strip," passed away in 1997. His family placed a limestone slab between his grill and the tree beside it which reads, "Here stood a man who lived "The Fair" every day." What memories he left and now we have Benjy to carry on. Fire up the grill!

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Minnie Dobbs Gamblin was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost at the morning worship service at First United Methodist Church Sunday, July 17, 2011. Minnie Dobbs, born April 27, 2011, is the daughter of Josh and Frances Jordan Gamblin. She bears the name of her great-great paternal grandmother, Minnie (Tom) Webb, and the maiden name of her great-great maternal grandmother, Mildred Dobbs Jordan. She was baptized in a gown known to be over 100 years old. It was passed down from Iris Germany, Minnie Dobbs' great-great aunt, and was worn by the baby's Uncle Caleb Gamblin when he was baptized.

Fred Britton, who officiated at the baptism, preached on the parable of the importance of planting seed on good soil. It was so obvious in the faces of those attending the service that Minnie Dobbs was firmly planted in a field of love.

They included grandparents, Dr. Joe Jordan, Cynthia Jordan, Marty and Cherie Gamblin, and Jody Webb. Great-grandparents, Steve and Charlene Webb; the late Jim and Connie Sampsell; the late Lamar and Louise Gamblin; the late Cooper and Frances Williams; and the late Dr. Porter and Mildred Jordan. Mildred was organist at First United Methodist for many years. Other special guests included Margaret, Porter and Cooper Jordan, Caleb Gamblin, Deree Webb, and Alene Griffith.

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Saturday, July 16 was birthday "day" in the home of Beth and Joey Kilgore. Their daughter, Anna Beth who turned 5 on July 6, celebrated her birthday at Miss Shawn's (Howell Byars) Dance Studio. Anna Beth and her ballerina friends, all of whom "adore Miss Shawn," got all dressed up, danced, and enjoyed Anna Beth's ballerina cake. That evening the family gathered at home to eat" Thomas the Train" birthday cake with Reed who was two on July 16. Wonderful parents. Blessed children, a cat named Tallie, and a dog named Sadie.

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Shelley King writes, "Anytime our family gets together is a time to cherish, but July 5, 2011 was especially special. We gathered to await the arrival of the newest member of our family, Cameron Eve King, the daughter of John and Leslie King, and a new granddaughter! It was fun to watch the other grandchildren, Cameron Simmons Brooks, 5, Ashleigh King, 13, and Garrett King, 19, meet their new cousin. They all agreed that she must come to the Fair 2011, at least for a few hours, just so she can say "she went," when she is older."

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When John walked out of the nursery with Cameron Eve in is arms, Shelley continues, "She was actually looking at us, and someone said, "I think she likes us!" "Us" included, Shelley, Leslie's mother and sister, Susan Martinez and DeeAnne Majure of Pascagoula, and the Kings, Phil, Sonya, Garrett and Ashleigh of Murfreesboro, Tenn., Jo Carol of Philadelphia, and Susanna and Simmons Brooks of Starkville. Long-time friends, Dr. Shay and Anne Daly, and their daughters, Hannah and Genna, shared in the celebration.

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Alex Weir, daughter of Stacie and William Weir and a recent graduate of Leake Academy, was honored at a May 6 luncheon at the Moore Community Center in Philadelphia. The graduation luncheon was hosted by Tommy and Joyce Weir, Susan Cook and Melissa Burnett. The tables were covered with brightly covered tablecloths and accented with tall vases of orange gladiolas from which Alex and her guests enjoyed a delicious meal of pork tenderloin, green beans, potato casserole, mandarin orange salad and butter rolls. For dessert, there was a choice between strawberry cake and chocolate or lemon pie. Alex enjoyed the congratulatory comments and good wishes extended by her family and friends.

Special guests were her parents, her grandmothers, Ouida Weir and Geraldine Therrell, her great-aunt Alice Lovern, and her brother, Matt Weir. Alex plans to attend East Central Community College this fall.

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Ouida Weir was honored on her 80th birthday July 9 at Atwood Personal Care Home. The color theme for the party was red, Ouida's favorite color. She was beautiful in a red jacquard outfit, accented by jewelry received from family members. The tables, covered in red silk and overlaid in white, were centered with arrangements of red roses and white carnations. The three-tiered red and white birthday cake with vanilla and chocolate layers was topped with red roses.

Special guests at the party were Juanita Jordan, sister, of Pascagoula, Virgil Herring, Jr., brother, and Judy of Philadelphia, and sisters-in-law, Ouida B. (W.T.) Weir and Louise (Horace) Herring of Meridian, and Alice (Marlin) Lovorn of Philadelphia. Hosting this special 80th birthday for their mother were Tommy (Joyce) Weir, Susan (Bill) Cook, and Melissa Burnett. All of Ouida's children, who included Tommy Weir, Sandra Barrett, Susan Cook, Melissa Burnett, William Weir and Stephanie Partridge, attended the party to wish their mother a very Happy 80th Birthday! "Friends" join in extending our Happy Birthday greetings and wishes for many more.

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Congratulations to recent college graduates, Tyler Burnett from Mississippi State University and Laurel Burnett from East Central Community College. Tyler and Laurel's parents are Melissa Burnett and the late Steve Burnett.

Tyler is employed with Tyler Construction Company. Laurel has enrolled in the nursing program at East Central Community College. Good wishes are extended the graduates by their mom, extended family, and "Friends"'.

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Joe Mack and Mollie Dansby bought Fair Cabin #96 from Dr. J.M. Blount in the early 60's for their girls, Fay, Jean, Jo, Ann, Pat and Camilla. This year Camilla's daughter, Cindy, and her husband, George Kirby, who come to the Fair every year from Hattiesburg, decided it was time to up-date and enlarge.

This is the second year Fay Warra will be missing from the group, but her family will be there, as will the families of Jean Brown of Atlanta, Jo Chaney and Ann Tingle of Philadelphia, Pat Gainer of Wixom, Michigan, and Camilla Bryant of Hattiesburg.

"Warm thoughts can make the sun a little brighter, the sky a little bluer and the world a little nicer." This thought certainly rings true when the youth from First United Methodist Church come calling on older members of the church asking, "Is there any chore we can do for you?." Among the youth doing this kind deed were Macy Martin, Rebecca Prince, A. C. Prince, Heather Hedgepeth, Cecily Kate Price, Ali Gray, Courtney Bounds, Sadie Shields, Emily Duncan, Molley Bailey, and Margaret Jordan.

Among the guys were Avery Duncan, Fent Mars, Jared Brister, Dylan Brister, Paul Prince, Garrett Threadgill, Gray Moorehead, Hunter Ketteringham, Hunter Dickerson, John Harold Smith, Tanner Salter, Gage Graham and John Tinsley. They were accompanied by their youth director, Jonathan Crabtree, his wife, Kristina, his brother, Austin Crabtree, visiting from Vicksburg, and Kreszenz Hedgepeth.

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A bit of very good news: Sylvia and Dorman Pope talked with their grandson, Brandon Pope, who is in Afghanistan with the 298th Combat Battalion. Brandon reports that he is fine and the weather is very hot and dusty. May God continue to bless America and "all our Brandons."

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As you read this, Dr. Bill Molpus is on his sixth medical mission trip to the African Continent. Next week we will share this experience, which Bill describes as "When God puts his Super on my natural," but this week, Fair week, we'll laugh together about his experience at the Antelope Park Safari Camp when he walked with the lions. And we thought his riding an elephant was crazy!

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"Walking with the lions was one of the optional activities you could choose to do. I was not at all excited about doing this, but I agreed to go ahead and live dangerously. They have a program where they take lion cubs born in captivity and reintroduce them into the wild. The program is funded in part by allowing tourist to interact with the lions during their first fourteen months.

After this stage, the lions have limited contact with humans. Before we walked with the lions we were given a lecture on how to behave around these wild animals, what to do and what not to do.

There were about 12 in our group. We walked behind two lions, four trainers and a guy with a gun. The trainers were obviously in control. When the lions decided to stop and lie down, the trainer would distract the lion and allow members of the group, one by one, to come up behind the lion and rub it back.

At this point, someone would take your picture to prove that you had petted a wild animal. I declined that experience.

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One lady knelt down, rubbed the lion, and got her picture taken. As she stood up, she lost her balance and fell on top of the lion! Everyone stopped breathing and contemplated the possible horror of the next minutes.

The lion let out this blood curdling roar and without turning its head, leaped into the air and ran into the bush. Nothing to laugh about when it was happening, but a lady on top of a lion! Now that was a funny sight!"