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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mid-South Fair ends 156th year on high note

Focuses on future as event wraps


By Yolanda Jones

Memphis Commercial Appeal

Posted October 4, 2011

Photo by Stan Carroll The 156th annual Mid-South Fair wrapped

up last weekend in Southaven.

"We had nine beautiful, rain-free days," said Mark Lovell, president of Cordova-based Universal Fairs, which ran this year's event. About 70,000 people attended this year's Mid-South Fair in Southaven, down from the estimated 75,000 who attended last year.
The event ended its 10-day run Sunday at DeSoto Civic Center, where the fair has been held for the past three years since moving from Memphis.
"We had nine beautiful, rain-free days," said Mark Lovell, president of Cordova-based Universal Fairs, which ran this year's event. "Things started off soft, but then things got better and better. The last two days were packed with people."
Only one day of rain marred the 156th annual fair.
"The crowd was not as big (as last year), but I'm happy because we had a fair with no one getting hurt and no problems," Lovell said.
Southaven Police Chief Tom Long said his officers made no arrests and took no incident reports during the fair.
The event is slated to call the Civic Center home until 2014, but officials are looking at a possible long-term partnership -- one that Lovell, who also operates the Delta Fair at Agricenter International, hopes to be part of.
This year's Delta Fair drew about 200,000 earlier in September.
Lovell's two-year management contract with the Mid-South Fair, in which he paid the fair a guaranteed fee to control the cash-strapped event, ends this year.
He said he has submitted a proposal to fair officials to continue the arrangement but is waiting to hear whether he will run next year's event.
"I'd love to be part of the fair," he said. "It is great working with the Civic Center folks, and I think the fair is a great event for the area."
Milton Rodgers, the new executive director of the fair, said the board of directors will decide about Lovell's contract in the coming weeks.
He added that this year's fair was successful, with R&B singer Ginuwine's show bringing in a big crowd.
"We had a very happy fair," Rodgers said.
In the next three years, he said the fair will work with the Civic Center to bring back the creative arts show, the agriculture component and strengthen ties with Mid-South schools.
"Our days of 4,000 animal entries are gone, but we will try to have more crops, crafts and merge the old and new at the fair in the coming years," Rodgers said. "It will all add to the fun if we do it right."

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