By ANGIE CARNATHAN
For Starkville resident Tammy Hood and her sister, Janet Perry of Philadelphia, the Neshoba County Fair is a family tradition.
“It’s something we look forward to all year, just being together, eating, laughing and making memories,” Perry said. “We just would not miss it.”
The Perry family has owned cabin No. 290 — also known as the Groovy Garden — for seven years.
“Perry Powell (granddaughter of Janet and Jim Perry) was given the cabin when she was 4 and was declared the youngest Fair cabin owner ever,” said her mother, Lee Powell of Madison.
In fact, the youngest cabin owner was also its decorator.
“When I was 4 my family asked me what I wanted it to look like and I said I wanted all bright colors, so it was painted lime green, hot pink, purple and orange with flowers and butterflies,” Powell said.
The official members of Powell’s cabin include her parents, Terry and Lee Powell; her grandparents, Jim and Janet Perry; her aunt and uncle, Dave and Tammy Hood of Starkville; and family friend Christy Cater, also of Starkville.
Tammy Hood said the cabin even features what they call the Grumpy Bench.
“If we notice somebody acting grumpy, and they know who they are, we turn on the strobe light and they have to sit on the Grumpy Bench wearing a crown while singing ‘I’ve got the joy, joy, joy in my heart’ until they’re not grumpy anymore,” she said. “It’s our Fair version of time out for adults.”
The family said their favorite Neshoba County Fair traditions are the talent show, the beauty pageant and the horse races. However, some of their traditions are family ones.
“We all go through the exhibit hall together and we have Sunday lunch at Uncle Steve’s cabin,” Janet Perry. “Uncle Steve is my mother’s brother, and I should mention that it’s not just Uncle Steve’s cabin, but also Lacie’s, his daughter, and Jenny Lynn’s, his wife.”
“Uncle Steve” is Steve Wilkerson, owner of Steve’s on the Square in Philadelphia.
“Everybody in our family and the town of Philadelphia call him Uncle Steve,” Janet Perry said.
Hood said another family tradition at the Fair involved racing, but not the well-known horse racing.
“Most nights at the Groovy Garden people gather around midnight to watch us race hermit crabs on our porch,” Hood said.
The hermit crab races and the Grumpy Bench aren’t the only things that are unique to the Groovy Garden.
“We actually have a wall where we write down all the funny things that happen each year — y’all come by and read it,” said Tammy Hood
The family enjoys their week at the fair so much that they say they actually plan ahead for their post-Fair blues.
“The last day of the Fair we plan a reunion for two weeks after at someone’s house so we’re not so sad about leaving our ‘Fair family,’” Janet Perry said.
The following recipes are considered staples of the Groovy Garden each year:
Aunt Tam Tam’s Buffalo Chicken Dip
2 packages 8-ounce cream cheese
2 cans chicken, drained
5 ounces wing sauce
1 cup ranch dressing
In a skillet, melt cream cheese on medium heat. Stir in chicken and wing sauce. Remove from heat and stir in ranch dressing. Pour all into a 9” x 13” baking dish and top with cheddar. Bake at 350 degrees, until cheese melts. (30-40 min). Serve with Scoops tortilla chips.
Lee and Perry’s Flourless Peanut Butter/Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg and 1 egg yolk, both slightly beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips. Stir in chocolate chips and bake at 350 degrees for 9-10 minutes on ungreased cookie sheet. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from sheet.
Janet’s Pimento Cheese Spread
8 ounce block cheddar cheese
8 ounce block mild cheddar
1 cup mayo
1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce
I can rotel tomatoes, drained
Large jar of pimento
Shred cheeses and mix with all other ingredients until smooth. Serve with crackers or celery. Refrigerate up to two weeks.