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Old and new traditions hit the midway...

Old and new traditions hit the midway for the 164th Mississippi State Fair

By: Courtney Ingle - October 5, 2023

Rides, games, food, music and more fill the capital city for 10 days as the Mississippi State Fair gets underway.

The 164th Annual Mississippi State Fair is bringing nostalgia and fun for the whole family at the state fairgrounds in Jackson, October 5 through October 15th. The rides, the shows, the exhibits, and the food bring a tangible excitement for fairgoers of all ages, whether it is their first State Fair or their fiftieth.

While the look of the fair may have changed over the last 164 years, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson said the spirit of the original fair remains intact. 

State fair celebrates tradition

“The Mississippi State Fair began as a meeting place for the ag community to show off their best livestock, produce, and the latest equipment utilized in rural Mississippi,” said Gipson. “The fair has grown to include all kinds of rides, games, attractions, and shows that all can enjoy. However, agriculture remains a major part of the annual State Fair.”

In honor of those roots, FFA and 4-H students travel from all over the Magnolia State to compete in annual livestock shows.

“The pony, horse, and mule pulls draw contestants and spectators from around the United States, and the Ag Expo, featuring the FARMtastic Exhibit, teaches visitors about the importance and diversity of Mississippi’s largest industry – agriculture,” said Gipson. “Though we strive to provide fairgoers new and exciting attractions at the State Fair each year, we are careful not to stray from the agriculture-related and lasting traditions that have made this annual event one of the largest in the state.” 

Fair food thrives as a cuisine of its own

Fairgoers need food for fuel to keep up with all of this entertainment, and the midway menu never disappoints. The famous chicken-on-a-stick, funnel cakes, caramel apples, and grilled corn-on-the-cob are back again to deliver mouthwatering flavors and aromas that stay with your memory long after the last bite. Mississippi farm-raised catfish will be featured again at the fair with vendors such as Penn’s and Berry’s Fish House. Polish sausage, corn dogs, cotton candy, fried Oreos and more fairground favorites are also back again this year. 

There’s more than enough for everyone. Commissioner Gipson said he’s excited to continue one of the tastiest traditions the fair has to offer. “You have to come by the famous Biscuit Booth, located just off the Midway. Each year, employees with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce pass out approximately 100,000 fresh, warm buttermilk biscuits to the public,” said Gipson. 

New events large-scale excitement to the coliseum

The Commissioner said several new events at the State Fair this year will bring a new wave of entertainment. “I believe I’m most excited for the all-new Taste of the Dixie National Rodeo. Fairgoers will get to experience a sampling of the largest rodeo east of the Mississippi River right here in Jackson during the Mississippi State Fair,” said Gipson.

The Taste of the Dixie National Rodeo will run shows throughout the duration of the State Fair. Fairgoers will see bull riding, calf scrambles, bucking broncs, live entertainment, and rodeo clowns. Taste of the Dixie National Rodeo shows will start at 6:30 p.m. every weekday and at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

American Idol tryouts are also new to the fair this year. The hunt for the next American Idol star will give patrons a chance not only to see great performers but also to get a taste of the off-camera Idol life. The talent show will be inside the Coliseum. 

“The semi-final competition between the top 40 auditions will be held on Monday, October 9, at 6:00 p.m. The top 20 contestants will advance to the finals on Tuesday, October 10, beginning at 6:00 p.m.,” said Commissioner Gipson. “The final five artists chosen through this process will win a VIP Executive Producer Audition. Both singing competitions will be open to the public with fair admission and a ticket, which will be available for purchase at the Coliseum box office.”

Concerts bring the party to life at the Fair

There is a night of music for nearly every genre at the state fair this year. Josh Turner and Todd Tilgham bring the 20th Anniversary Long Black Train Tour to the fair on October 5th. Line Dance with Cupid October 8th; Nashville hitmaker Ernest performs on October 12; JJ, Kerwin Claiborne, Marvin Hunter, & Rita B. bring stand-up to Funny Friday on October 13; the Commodores take us back with hits like “Brick House” on October 14th; and award-winning Christian artist Jeremy Camp rounds out the coliseum headliners on October 15th. Kayla Berry, a Mississippi native from Raleigh, will be the opening act for Camp’s show.

The Michelob Ultra Tent on the Midway also offers a variety of free music and entertainment shows such as an open-mic and karaoke night, Dukes of Country, The Dirt Deacons and more. 

Know Before You Go

The Mississippi State Fair has increased its security measures in recent years. It is best to know these policies before your trip to ward off any mishaps: 

  • Beginning at 9:00 p.m., any guest under the age of 18 seeking admission to the Fairgrounds must be accompanied by a legal adult (21 or older). Any guest may be asked to show official proof of age to be admitted after 9:00 p.m. 
  • When entering the Midway, all guests will proceed through one of the seven entry security points utilizing a metal detector, and/or be subject to magnetic wanding.
  • All bags are subject to search. The maximum bag size that will be accepted into the Fair is 12”x12”x6”.
  • No outside food or beverage allowed.
  • No marketing, soliciting, political, or vending items allowed unless and as authorized under Fairground regulations.
  • No animals (other than service animals or as authorized by Fair management for Fair activities), banners, fireworks/explosives, or laser pointers allowed.
  • Pursuant to state law, the legal carry of firearms by all lawful adults is recognized on the Mississippi Fairgrounds.
  • Exceptions and challenges to these policies will be satisfied at the discretion of Fair Management.
  • Strollers are permitted, but not wagons. 
  • The State Fairgrounds are handicap accessible. 

For more information regarding the Mississippi State Fair, including a full list of shows, visit here

About the Author(s)
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Courtney Ingle

Courtney Ingle is a veteran journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience in print, radio, and digital media. Courtney brings her talents to bear at Magnolia Tribune to cover family-centered education and to elevate those unique aspects of Mississippi culture.