The Fair, football and lemonade

Published 8:44 am Thursday, August 3, 2017

By Joel McNeece

Summer is over, although the calender and thermometer disagree.

Summer always ends for us when we return home from the Neshoba County Fair because it marks our last summer get-away, and the fact that high school football practice starts up the Monday after.

Email newsletter signup

Football, more than politics, was the dominant topic of discussion around the fairgrounds this year due to the Hugh Freeze saga.

Thursday afternoon, following Gov. Phil Bryant’s speech, new Ole Miss coach Matt Luke was making the rounds with university officials to visit with a few supporters. Perry Sansing, the special assistant to the chancellor, was among them. I always enjoy visiting with Perry. His father David, one of this state’s top historians who has written some marvelous books such as the recent “Mississippi Governors,” is one of my absolute favorites.

I spoke with Matt Luke, Ole Miss’ new coach for a minute and wished him well. In a nutshell, he said he just wanted to get on the football field and stay there. I can understand that.

He did manage to avoid the trap set by my 5-year-old granddaughter Ellie Kathryn, but few others were so lucky.

She set up a lemonade stand in front of the cabin to take advantage of the political crowds gathered on Founders’ Square, and boy did she.

Attorney General Jim Hood was among her first victims. He came by the cabin and we visited for a while when Ellie stepped over and asked him if he wanted a glass. He said “absolutely,” and she poured him a small cup about half full.

“How much?” Jim asked with a big smile.

“$5,” Ellie insisted.

I about fell out of my chair. I suggested to Ellie that’s a bit much for a small cup of lemonade, but Jim had already been had. He wasn’t the last.

Kyle Steward, an old friend from his days as a congressional aide to both Sonny Montgomery and Roger Wicker, is now executive director of external affairs at Mississippi State. He and MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum eat lunch with us every year at the Fair. Kyle and I were reminiscing when Dr. Keenum decided he too would patronize Ellie. I didn’t have time to warn him.

There were chuckles all around this time when she announced the price, but Dr. Keenum gladly handed over the $5.

“You’re guaranteeing me another trip to the midway,” I joked with him.

“Quite the entrepreneur,” he laughed.

By the time all the political speaking was done, Ellie had raked in $75 and was off to the midway to throw darts at balloons and baseballs at milk bottles.

It was a good Fair, although we spoke often of our sadness that cabin mate Sid Salter couldn’t make it this year. He’s doing well, fighting through cancer treatments and making good progress. He’ll be back next year for our 30th anniversary at the cabin. It will be here before we know it now that summer is history.

Joel McNeece is the publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at