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Look Back In Yalobusha History

First Tri-Lake Fair Brings 12,000 For Five-Day Run

The first Tri-Lake Fair opened for its five-day run on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 1953, and drew a first-night crowd estimated at about 2,000. Louis Riggs, president of the Jaycees, said that more than 12,000 people visited during the run.
Herald editor Edward B. Shearer said that he had heard nothing but praise for the fair and for the Junior Chamber of Commerce members who undertook the project. He added that the group was already planning for the next year and were looking for land to purchase for fairgrounds on which they hoped to erect permanent buildings.
Among the award winners were the Jeff Davis Home Demonstration Club, first for their community booth; Camp Ground, second; and Bethlehem, third. Pitt Person was awarded first in the Junior Corn Show and third in the Junior Cotton Show. Doug Person took first in the Cotton Show.
Senior Corn show winner was Jim Tribble and Senior Cotton show winner was Mrs. Greer Person. Fred McCullar had the Reserve Grand Champion Bull, named W. W. Royal Rollo 20, and the Grand Champion Cow, Miss Gold 1. J. T. Williamson also had several champions.
The fair had received publicity in the Commercial Appeal before the opening. In a front-page article, the Memphis paper said that the fair was expected to be the largest in North Mississippi and was a “worthy successor to the Water Valley Watermelon Carnivals of the 1930s.”
The fair was under the general management of Harvey Gray. Other officials included Jack Trout, field crops; Carlton Pass Jr., dairy; J. T. Williamson, beef cattle; Greer Person, swine; Kenneth Rusk, sheep; R. D. Childress, poultry; A. F. Williams, home improvement craft; and Loraine Heath, women’s section.
Other Jaycee members who served on the committee included John Throop, Jr., secretary; Horace Ashford, treasurer; and Dr. R. N. Edgar, publicity chairman.
The late Mark Trusty, who served on several of the committees and as president of the Jaycees, said that the Tri-Lake Fair came along at a time when everyone was enthusiastic and ready for another big event in town like the original Watermelon Carnivals.
He said that the Jaycees were all too young to know how much work the carnivals were and the older men didn’t tell them so as not to dampen their spirits.  
By the third year, the Jaycees had purchased 30 acres on Highway 315 North (to the west of town) with several hundred feet of highway frontage. With the help of county supervisors they were able to do the dirt work necessary to make the front more presentable. They also built a brick entranceway that still stands today.
The group still had to rent tents and spent almost $900 for the third fair. They decided that the money could be better spent on permanent structures. “The Illinois Central Railroad gave us the old depot building to dismantle and clear the ground that it was on,” Trusty said. “What we were after were the heavy timbers out of the depot.”
The Jaycees built an exhibit building and a cattle shed with the depot material. “For a long time it was the largest free span building in Yalobusha County. It was a 70-foot free span, 200 feet long. We were only able to do that because of the giant timbers which were in the depot.”

Blue Moon Of Kentucky
Of the many stories to emerge from the Tri-Lake Fairs seven-year run, one of the best has to be about a young singer from Memphis who Jaycees didn’t think would be much of a crowd draw. Trusty said that one of the committees he was on was obligated to supply entertainment for the entire run of the fair. “That consisted of a traveling carnival, rodeo, stage shows and things of that nature. We had free entertainment for the crowd so that they would stay longer.”
One of the stage acts Trusty brought to the attention of the Jaycees was an up-and-coming Memphis rock-and-roller. “His name was Elvis Presley. He had just made the record ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky.’”
He added that he often ran into young Elvis where he bought his jukebox records. During the next buying trip, Elvis walked in to Poplar Tunes. “Crown Electric was just a few doors up the street where Elvis worked. When he walked in, I was reminded about asking him to put on a show.”
Trusty asked Elvis how much he would charge to come to Water Valley for about an hour appearance.
“I can see him now. He got the jacket off a 78 record and reached in his pocket and got a little pencil. He edged up to me and said, ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll come down there for $25 for myself and $10 apiece for my two boys and the price of a round trip bus ticket for all three of us.’ The total cost would have been about $50 or $60.”
Trusty brought the information back to the local Jaycees and explained what Elvis’s terms were. “They didn’t think he’d be worth it for a crowd draw, so we turned Elvis down for $25. We’re the only club in the world that ever turned Elvis down for $25.”

Through The Years
From The Herald  

• 5 years ago, Sept. 4, 2008 – Enid Lake officials including Resource Manager Billy Samuels were pictured watching as hundreds of “fishermen” probed, grabbled, dipped, seined and net trapped fish after the Corps of Engineers drained the outlet structure for the five-year inspection and maintenance.
The Blue Devils defeated Coffeeville, 20-12, in their season opener on the road.
• 10 years ago, Sept. 4, 2003 – Unemployment was high in Yalobusha for July at 13.5 percent. Normal was about 8 percent at the time.
The Devils lost their season opener to IAHS in Fulton by a heartbreaking 28-27.
• 20 years ago, Sept. 2, 1993 – Sylva Rena community earned a “Certified Ten” rating thanks to new equipment and better training for the Sylva Rena Volunteer Fire Department.
The Blue Devils defeated Grenada in their season opener, 21-15, in overtime.
• 30 years ago, Sept. 8, 1983 – The Blue Devils defeated Charleston, 13-0, in their season opener. Coach Jerry Holt was pictured giving instructions to quarterback Keith Larson.
Kim Herring, a WVHS junior and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Herring, was Drum Major for the WVHS Band.
Charles Jenkins graduated from the Mississippi Police Academy in Laurel with the highest grade point average in his class of 22 students, 92.53. He was pictured being congratulated by WVPD Chief John Watson.
• 40 years ago, Sept. 6, 1973 – The board of aldermen voted to condemn the old grammar school building on Wagner Street and planned to demolish the building in the fall.
Charles Karr brought in the first cotton boll from a field planted May 22.
The Blue Devils were about to open their season against the Holly Springs Hawks with junior Al Reed in the quarterback position.
• 50 years ago, Sept. 5, 1963 – Former Water Valley High School coach Charles Peets was new head coach at Northwest Mississippi Junior College.
City schools were set to open Friday, Sept. 6, with a total of 954 students.
The Blue Devils were scheduled to take on Houston Friday night at 8 p.m. Gary Cox would be quarterback for the game.
• 60 years ago, Sept. 10, 1953 – The Blue Devils won their first game of the season against Calhoun City, 13-7.
Herald editor Edward B. Shearer questioned the idea of parking meters for downtown Water Valley. He said that local businessmen opposed the meters because they would drive business to other towns where shoppers didn’t have to pay a penny to park.
• 70 years ago, Sept. 2, 1943 – A committee from the Water Valley Rotary Club headed by Dr. George Brown was asking the Illinois Central Railroad to restore passenger service through Water Valley that had been recently halted.
Attorney W. I. Stone of Coffeeville was asking for local people opposed to the building of dams on the Yocona and Skuna Rivers to meet at the Grenada Courthouse. “If you are really ready to fight to protect your county and this country from the terrible menace of dams and reservoirs, be on hand,” Stone said.
• 100 years ago, Sept. 4, 1913 – (from The City Itemizer) Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Mauldin and Mr. and Mrs. R. S. Mauldin made a trip to Sumner, Vance, and other points in the delta the first of the week, going through the country in Mr. Mauldin’s handsome auto.
Mr. H. A. Little resigned as head plumber for the firm of Buckley Bros. Hardware. It turned out he and G. W. Hadaway were about to open their own plumbing business.

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