Fair fare: Choctaws celebrate colorful culture

By Staff
SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE Hal and Laurie Arnold make a balloon animal Tuesday for Dillion McMillan, center, at the Choctaw Indian Fair. The fair continues through Saturday and includes activities for all ages pony rides, concerts, stickball tournaments, amusement park-style rides and Native American crafts. PHOTO BY ANNA WRIGHT / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Erin Hilsabeck / staff writer
July 15, 2004
Hal and Laurie Arnold have been coming to the Choctaw Indian Fair for four years, and that equals nearly 6,000 balloons.
As family entertainers, the Arnolds specialize in creating balloon animals for children. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians pays them to come, but there's no charge to the children for the balloon animals they receive.
The balloon animal booth is one of many activities at the 55th annual Choctaw Indian Fair in Choctaw. Arts and crafts booths, pony rides and World Championship stickball fill four days every summer.
Several tents some air-conditioned, some not are packed with handmade bracelets and necklaces, most of a traditional Native American nature.
Helen Thompson, from Memphis, Tenn., makes beaded jewelry. She weaves wire through tiny beads, sometimes incorporating seeds or polished stones.
Thompson, who grew up and raised her children in Choctaw, said her older sister taught her how to create beaded jewelry.
Every year, Thompson comes back to the fair to meet new people, and renew her relationships with old friends.
Aside from the traditional parts of the fair like Thompson's beadwork and the stickball matches modern entertainers perform each evening at the amphitheater.
This year, the fair's lineup includes Trace Adkins, Aaron Tippin and Jimmy Wayne.
But during the day, fairgoers can choose their favorite outdoor activity. Younger visitors may want to take a ride on a gentle pony, courtesy of Vic Armstreet's company, Happy Tails Pony Rides.
Although this is Armstreet's first year at the fair, he said he is enjoying it so far.
Want to go?
Hours: 11 a.m.-1 a.m. today and 9 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Tickets: Adult season tickets are $15, or $10 for a single day. Student season tickets are $10, or $5 for a single day. Admittance is free for children five and under.
Directions: The Choctaw Indian Fair is about five miles north of Philadelphia. Turn off Highway 16 at the Choctaw Town Center onto Industrial Park Road and follow signs as you enter the reservation.

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