The Neshoba County Fair. Mississippi's Giant Houseparty.
Here is a classic example of our "open door hospitality."
After the Monday night "Miss Neshoba County Pageant," the crowd began its return to the Winstead's cabin #333 on the east side of the racetrack.
Emma Kate had been a contestant and excitement was running high.
In a very organized manner, each of the some nine favorite Fair cakes, caramel, chocolate, red velvet, carrot, "you name it," had been labeled on the shelf.
Enter a couple who had followed the crowd to the cabin.
Kent looked at Jeff, "Your guest?" Jeff looked at Sally, "Your guest?"
In a cabin that sleeps 50 on the weekend, this is a common thing and everyone is welcome.
After thoughtfully considering their selections, they chose chocolate.
"And may we have a Coke, please," said the nice gentleman, digging in his pocket for the money to pay!
The following is the story of six first cousins and the reunion they had at the Neshoba County Fair 2013.
Their story would not be complete without some background information, so, here goes.
Her name was "Mud," although she in no way personified the connotation implied by that phrase.
Our "Mud" was a gracious, talented and loving mother, grandmother, relative and friend.
Ruth Yates Dobbs acquired the name "Mud" when her oldest daughter, Fannie Lee, tried to say "Mother," but could only get as far as "Mud."
So, "Mud" she was, not to just her family, but her friends as well.
Mud had six grandchildren, all of whom she loved deeply and of whom she was extremely proud.
Her oldest daughter, Fannie Lee Dobbs, had twin sons, Bill and Bob Hand.
Her next daughter, Mildred Dobbs Jordan, also had two sons, Dan and Joe Jordan.
Her youngest child, Charles ("Son Dobbs," she called him), had two daughters, Laura Dobbs Bryan and Betty Dobbs Bond.
All six of these first cousins inherited their grandmother's and their parent's musical talent.
Both Bill and Bob Hand are very talented musicians.
Bill plays trombone and Bob plays trumpet.
They have played, and still play, in several different musical groups.
Dan and Joe Jordan played in the Philadelphia High school band, but left their instruments behind to pursue other interests.
Betty Dobbs Bond sings in the choir at Louisville First Methodist Church.
Laura has followed more closely in her grandmother's and Aunt Mildred Jordan's musical footsteps, although both Laura's parents were musicians.
Mud played the organ at First United Methodist Church in Philadelphia.
After her retirement, her daughter, Mildred Jordan, became the organist, and at her retirement, Laura stepped into her aunt's shoes, playing the organ for forty years, then switching to piano.
This same thing happened at the "Late Night Sing" at the Neshoba County Fair.
Mud was the first pianist, then Mildred, and now Laura is still carrying on their tradition.
Joe Jordan is the leader of this event.
Several months ago, the cousins were all in Philadelphia and decided to get together for a short reunion at the Fair.
They set a date and time and gathered at Laura and Betty's cabin on Sunset Strip for a "first cousin reunion."
All had a great time catching up on children, grandchildren, and other noteworthy happenings in their lives.
As they were getting ready to leave, Dan proposed a toast to the group.
He began by saying (light heartedly) that, to his knowledge, none of the six had served time in the penitentiary, and all had been good, law-abiding citizens.
But his major toast noted the fact that out of Mud's six grandchildren, five are doctors and one holds a master's degree.
Dan has a Ph.D. in history and has recently retired as President of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation.
He and his wife, Lou, lived on the grounds at Monticello during his tenure there, now residing in Charlottesville, Va.
Bill and Bob are both retired orthopedic surgeons.
Bill and his wife, Evie, live in Madison, and Bill still works part-time. Bob and his wife, Jackie (Allen), live in Grand Isle, La.
Prior to moving to Grand Isle, Bob and Jackie lived in Monroe where both played in the Monroe Symphony Orchestra.
Laura has a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction.
She is a retired professor from Mississippi State University and lives in Philadelphia.
Betty has a Master's Degree in Library Science and recently retired as a librarian in Winston County.
She and her husband, Charles, live in Louisville. Joe is a dentist in Philadelphia and lives on Poplar Avenue where Aunt Fannie Lee Hand previously lived.
It was a wonderful time for the six to be together, and it was decided that the "First Cousins Reunion" would be an annual event.
Speaking with the heart of a grandmother, "How proud Mud must be!"
What a dream trip for a mother and daughter to see New York City together!
While Danny Price was on an Alaskan Mission trip with Hope Baptist Church, "his girls," Teresa and Danielle, "Decided to try and make it on our own, long a dream of ours," Teresa told me.
"We were cautious and careful and are back, with some wonderful memories, so I guess we did okay!"
They were among the Friday morning crowd who stood in Times Square as seen on The Today Show and saw a performance by a group called Train.
"While in Times Square, we walked and shopped, getting on and off the "hop on-hop off bus" to tour every area around, from the Statue of Liberty to Yankee Stadium."
Fulfilling one last dream, they saw the Broadway historical musical "Motown."
"After a lot of lights, laughter, noise, car horns, taxis, hustle and bustle," Teresa and Danielle flew over our nation's capitol, back home "into a little peace and quiet."
As you read this, Danielle, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, has begun her second year as a pre-med student at Meridian Community College, and Teresa is back at State Farm, with pictures to prove to her boss, Sam Nowell, that "we really did do it!."
While on family vacation at the Phoenix Six in Orange Beach, Ala., Shelby and Bently Huddleston wrote their letters to Santa Claus.
While his mother, Shelby, "would like the big, flat screen TV in their room, Bently wants a swimming pool, just like the one at the beach resort!"
As for me, I'd like one of those magic e-stem machines Shelby has at V.I.P.!
"The ocean did not impress our two-year-old at all," Shelby told me, "His favorite part was having me and Ethan catch him as he jumped into the pool."
Bently, Shelby and Ethan vacationed with grandparents, James and Candy Huddleston, and Ethan's sister, Ashley, her husband, Austin, and their four-and a half-month old daughter, Talia Dunsford.
The trip is well documented in the family photo album!
Our thanks to Mandy Smith who was one of 208 students who graduated from Neshoba Central High on May 27, 1988 for this report on their 25th class reunion.
A total of 114 graduates attended the reunion held at the Senior Citizens Center at North Side Park here in Philadelphia on June 22.
"You belong here," spoke the school colors of red and blue in balloons and streamers, marking the site for the party.
The late afternoon meal was catered by Connie Page.
"While everyone had a really good time," Mandy told me, like at most reunions, there were missing faces.
"We have lost sixteen classmates since our sixth grade year."
These included Tisha King, Shannon Sharp, Jay Duncan Bosarge, Jody Apperson, Joe Higginbottom, Willie Davis, Tammy Bryan, Jennifer Boler, Wendy Graham, Bryan Smith, Sally Crocker Howell, Bryce Clark, Vickie Jayroe, Dana Sanders, Tony Fortenberry, and Brenda Hill Talbert. Brenda and Richie Talbert, "came to our school during our fifth grade year."
Blaire Victoria Williamson was among the graduates in the pre-k graduation program at the First United Methodist Church celebrated on May, 16.
Blaire is the daughter of Josh Williamson, the granddaughter of Jan and Ray Williamson, and the great-granddaughter of Zula Rhodes Shackelford.
A graduation dinner party honoring Blaire was held at Ronnie's Steak House.
Those attending the celebration were Blaire's Aunt Sandy Myers, her cousin Mandy Smith from Saltillo, Josh, Jan and Sarah Williamson, and Granny Zula Rhodes Shackelford.
Blaire is now a kindergarten student at Neshoba Central.
May we wish Blaire a very happy school year!
"Have Fans---Will Travel" is one of the many special qualities of country music artist and native Philadelphian, Michael Hardy, son of Mike and Sarah Hardy.
Michael also travels with his own press agents, Johnny, Brandy and Maribeth Stuart, who were in the audience on July 6 when Michael opened for one of his own personal favorite artists, Rodney Adkins, at the "Stars and Stripes" celebration held at the Trails End Campground in Huntsville, Tenn.
The stage, set in the middle of a open field nestled in the mountains of eastern Tennessee, was similar to our Neshoba County Fair.
As rain began to fall, Michael's fans donned parkas and umbrellas and the show was on!
"Whether in Nashville, Starkville, Key West or Huntsville, Michael always draws a crowd and never fails to put on a great show. His faithful family and friends have always done their best to travel, to watch, and support him whenever they can."
Also there to support Michael this special evening were his parents, his sister, Madison Hardy of Nashville, Griffin Burke, Clay Cooper of MTSU, Oneida, Tenn., and a host of friends from eastern Tennessee.
"However, the highlight of the performance had to have been when Michael's grandparents, Bobby and Joyce Hardy, made a surprise appearance, and Michael proudly announced them to the cheering crowd!"
After the concert, a fireworks show lighted the sky, in further celebration of the Fourth of July.
Michael graduated from Middle Tennessee State University on Aug. 15 with a degree in Songwriting and a minor in Entrepreneurship.
His EP, "Redneck Recipe" will be released soon and made available on iTunes.
We add our good wishes to that of Michael's press agents, "Congratulations, Michael, on all your accomplishments, and best wishes for a successful and happy career!"