The Neshoba County Fair has been taking place the last week of July for 127 years.
Every year at the end of July, the Neshoba County Fair is held in Philadelphia, Mississippi, bringing friends and families together. And this year, the fair brought Peyton Manning and his family together with a new puppy. The two-pound puppy had been rescued by the Animal Rescue Fund of Mississippi from carnival workers at the fair, where she had been kept in a garbage bag and with a rope tied tightly around her neck. The puppy was taken to the vet, treated and cleaned up, and then placed with one of the rescue fund’s foster families, who happened to be staying in a cabin at the fair near the Mannings. After Peyton and his kids visited and fell in love with the little pup, they decided to adopt her for good.
The Manning family have been longtime attendees of the annual weeklong fair in Mississippi. Peyton and Eli’s mom Olivia is from Philadelphia, and her ancestors have deep roots in the community—and at the fair. The Manning family owns one of the fairground’s 600 hard-to-get cabins, most of which are two or three stories tall and can sleep more than 30 people each—often all in one giant room. There are also 575 RV spots, and along with lodging in nearby hotels, the fair draws over 30,000 people each year.
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If you’re having a hard time imaging tens of thousands of people congregating in the heat of Mississippi summer to pile on top of their relatives in a house not near their ocean, you’re not alone. The fair tends to be a bit divisive, but those in the “love” camp far outnumber the naysayers. And the boon to the local economy speaks for itself.
Olivia Manning’s grandfather opened a local general store in 1907 that’s still in operation, and all three of her sons worked there as teenagers. Along with the celebrity connection, the fair means a big spike in business for the store each year. Affectionately called “Mississippi’s Giant Houseparty,” the fair attracts big entertainment acts (Trace Adkins and Dierks Bentley are past headliners), hosts a pageant show, livestock shows, horse races, and many other activities. There’s even a Pretty Cow Contest. First hosted in 1891 when guests arrived in horse and buggy, the Neshoba County Fair has grown from a two-day gathering that was part-churchmeeting, part-agricultural show, into a weeklong party that brings together thousands of family members and friends, enjoying good food and good company.