Cowboys to cotton candy – Panola ready for fair

Published 8:35 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Final preparations are being completed this week for the first North Mississippi State Fair and Panola County Sheriff’s Rodeo that will run next Thursday through Sunday at the Batesville Civic Center.

Sheriff Shane Phelps met Tuesday with city and county officials to review all that is planned for the June 27-30 rodeo and fair that will culminate Saturday night with a fireworks show that will be the city’s kickoff for Independence Day celebrations before the July 4th holiday.

“Safety is the first thing we are concerned about because we are expecting one of the biggest crowds Panola County has ever had,” Phelps said. “Some of the safety measures we have put in place may be an inconvenience to some people, but we have to remember that everyone’s safety is our responsibility.”

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Phelps said attendance will be much like going to a major college football game – everyone will pass through a gate, only clear backpacks and purses will be allowed, no coolers, and no firearms, even for those with open carry permits.

Private security personnel will be on the scene throughout the fair as well as officers from Batesville Police, Panola Sheriff’s Office, MHP, and the  mounted patrol division of the Oxford Police Dept.

Most of the Civic Center’s property will be cordoned with orange netting and all entry will through an opening in the area immediately south of the front of the facility. General parking will be in the big lot south of the Center and overflow parking will be in the large grass field across from the Kennel Club restaurant and in the grass area between the Civic Center equestrian structures and women’s and children’s clinic adjacent to the hospital.

Maps of those parking areas are posted on this website.

The fair will open Thursday at 5 p.m. with carnival rides and vendors, a Kids Korner sponsored by Batesville Junior Auxiliary, and a devotion tent that will be staffed by volunteers from Hosanna Church, the Cowboy Church, Enid Lake Baptist Church, Good Hope Baptist Church, and The Grace Place.

The fairgrounds will open Friday and Saturday at 1 p.m. and will close each night 10 p.m. On Sunday, the carnival rides will be open from 1 to 8 p.m.  Anyone under 16 years of age will not be allowed to enter the gates after 8 p.m. unless accompanied by an adult, Phelps said.

The rodeo portion of the weekend will start each afternoon at 5 p.m. when doors open to the public and for those who want their children to participate in the mutton busting events that match kids with sheep for a first hand rodeo experience. Parents should arrive by 5 p.m. to register for those events.

Thursday night’s rodeo will feature bull riding only, and full blown shows will be presented Friday and Saturday – each night at 7 p.m. – with a bonus matinee rodeo 1 p.m. Mutton busting for the matinee will take place at 11:30 a.m., and doors will open 30 minutes before.

The Friday and Saturday shows will feature the antics and skills of national touring act Cowboy Kenny, who performs amazing tricks on motorcycles. Videos of his performances are available on social media platforms.

A variety of rodeo competitions will be held each night, along with general show fun and audience participation.

Local cowboys can enter the events at the website portals of the International Pro Rodeo Association, the governing body of the rodeo competition for the Batesville event. Dozens of professional rodeo circuit regulars will participate hoping to earn points toward a championship.

In addition to the real bulls and other animals, children and adults will have an opportunity to take a spin on mechanical bulls, which will be located in the Kids Korner and inside the Civic Center.

Throughout the weekend, an Open Junior Livestock Show will also be happening in the show barns adjacent to the main building.  Meat Goats will be on Thursday, beginning at 1 p.m., cattle will be on Friday with showmanship at 6 p.m., and heifer and bull specialty events will be all day Saturday.  Contact Dusty Dettor (292-3211) or Meredith Rhodes (934-9934) for more information.

Each night after the rodeo, the Civic Center will have live music for about an hour. All of the events are free and open to the public.

Also on Saturday, EPW (Explosive Pro Wrestling), a national organization with a branch in Booneville, will put on a show with bell time at 4:30 p.m. in an outdoor ring in front of the Civic Center.

The finale will be Saturday night following the close of the rodeo, which will last until 10 p.m. Approximately 30 minutes later a major firework show will close out the weekend of activities, except for the carnival’s Sunday hours.

The fireworks will be staged from the hill east of Civic Center Drive and will be easily viewed from general parking areas.

Phelps said while weather forecasts look good for now, contingency plans for storms have been made and will be updated as needed.

“Daniel Cole’s office (Emergency Operations) will be on site at all times monitoring weather and keeping us safe from the weather, especially lightning,” he said. “We won’t take any chances and will shut everything down if we have to until bad weather passes.”