The Neshoba County Fair kicks off Friday, July 27 and even in a federal election year the Fair remains the biggest political event in Mississippi. No, I don't expect to see Barack Obama or Mitt Romney walking through the Midway. But once Governor Anselm McLaurin spoke at the Fair in 1896, they haven't been able to keep politicians out. No exception this year with local, district and statewide elected officials taking the stage at the Pavilion in Founders Square.

Wednesday's headliners include Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, Attorney General Jim Hood, Auditor Stacey Pickering, Transportation Commissioner Dick Hall and Public Service Commissioner Lynn Posey. Bench sitters will also hear from state Senator Giles Ward, state Representative Scott Bounds, and local judges Joey Kilgore, Vernon Cotton and Marcus Gordon. Hood, the lone Democrat speaking Wednesday, may take some shots at Republicans for the Sunshine reforms passed this year, or at former Governor Haley Barbour's pardons, but typically in a nonelection year he focuses on issues appealing to the crowd like investigating and prosecuting child predators.

The only electioneering this year comes on Thursday. Three candidates challenging U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Tupelo) speak in the morning: Thomas Cramer of the Constitution Party, Shawn O'Hara with the Reform Party, and Democratic nominee Albert Gore, Jr. No, Gore is not the former Vice President and Senator from Tennessee but a retired minister and U.S. Army chaplain from Starkville. The Senate is in session on Thursday so Wicker won't be speaking, but anticipate him making the cabin rounds over the weekend.

Also Thursday morning, Chief Justice Bill Waller will speak in his campaign for reelection to the Mississippi Supreme Court in the Central District. His challenger, State Representative Earle S. Banks speaks prior to Waller. I suspect Waller will talk about efficiencies in the Court, the success of drug courts, innovations in technology at the Court and perhaps some entertaining campaign anecdotes. This will be an opportunity for Banks to present his argument on why voters should choose him over Waller in November.

Thursday's lineup concludes with Treasurer Lynn Fitch, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Governor Phil Bryant. Gunn will be the first Speaker in recent memory - perhaps ever - to speak at the Fair, although former Speaker Billy McCoy had a surrogate speak for him in the past. Chaney's speech may be the one to watch with Tea Party and other conservatives concerned with his work to establish a state health insurance exchange as part of Obamacare, a project Chaney says will be evaluated after the November election when he hopes his candidate (Romney) wins the White House and will change or repeal the vestiges of Obamacare within the project.

Politics can be entertaining, but sometimes there is a direct overlap between politicians and entertainment. On Monday at 1:00pm Jess Dickinson and the Bluegrass Appeal performs at the Grandstand. Dickinson represents the Southern District on the Mississippi Supreme Court as Presiding Justice where he was reelected without opposition in 2010. Dickinson got his start in music in Delta juke joints and made the rounds touring in bands and playing as a studio musician in Los Angeles. Sure, he got to accompany the King of Pop Michael Jackson on the piano one time, but Dickinson eventually realized he was never going to pay the bills as an artist. Following a successful legal career and election to the state's highest court, he now plays to benefit legal foundations, at the Capitol Christmas in the Rotunda and at festivals and charity events. He and his band released "From Dublin to the Delta" two years ago on which he plays the hammer dulcimer.

But the Neshoba County Fair is much more than politics and for many, politics doesn't even enter into their enjoyment except as a distraction from their more important endeavors: porch sitting, tobacco spitting, reunion visiting, moonshine getting, horse betting, late night singing, shirt sweat wringing, sweet potato pie bringing, woo pitching, quilt stitching, hermit crab racing, baby chasing, afternoon napping, bluegrass clapping, track walking, joke talking, celebrity looking, Southern cooking - there's a lot going on. The press, elected officials and the political establishment make the annual pilgrimage, but others come, or stay, for other traditions at Mississippi's Giant House Party: the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon; the Miss Neshoba County Fair pageant; the rodeo; agricultural competitions and 4-H exhibitions; the flea market; arts and crafts; petting zoo; mule, horse and harness racing; veteran's memorial service; cake walks; and entertainment like Thacker Mountain Radio, Blackberry Smoke, Vernon Brothers and Trace Adkins keeps thousands of visitors and dwellers of the 600 plus cabins and couple hundred RV campers busy without even attending speech one. Afterall, the election isn't until November and Fair fun can't wait.



Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Reach him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.