Fair, county in Cole's blood
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 11:30 AM
Jennifer Cole and nephew Parker Cole
Occupation and what it entails:
I am the Deputy Editor of Southern Living magazine. I write and edit feature stories on everything from destinations, such as Charleston and Bourbon Country, to food to music to celebrities. I recently researched a story on the South's best new restaurants that put me on the road for 20 days straight, hopping from town to town checking out restaurants--sometimes as many as six in a day. At Southern Living I founded and produce the "Biscuits & Jam" music franchise, a video concert series that combines food and music, an awesome way to hang out with bands I love. We've done sessions with artists such as St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Old Crow Medicine Show, the Zac Brown Band, Robert Earl Keen, The Lone Bellow, and Shovels & Rope. I often work red carpet events such as the CMT Awards to interview celebrities. At this year's awards I accidentally video bombed Justin Moore backstage when he was announcing Blake Shelton, and my phone immediately started blowing up from friends who saw it.
How long have you been coming to the Fair?
Rumor has it I was conceived here--and the math works. There's no denying I've got the red clay of Neshoba and the sawdust of Happy Hollow in my blood. I've missed just a handful of Fairs, mostly in college when I was studying abroad. And one of my favorite things is to bring someone who's never been. You can try to explain the Fair, but no one ever truly gets it until they get here.
Tell us about the cabin you are staying in:
It's full of food and chaos. My Mamaw (Jane Cole) is our queen bee--she's the original Brick House--and she keeps us stocked with caramel cake, banana bread, cookies, cupcakes, and (my favorite) a perfectly sweet and tart ten-layer lemon cake. The rest of us (my parents, brothers, aunts, and uncles) take turns cooking meals for our crew and whoever else shows up at mealtime. And my six nieces and nephews keep it interesting with water balloon and water gun fights. Walk through Happy Hollow at your own risk.
What are some of your favorite memories of the Fair growing up as a child?
I remember when I was finally "old enough" to walk up to Lindsay's Lemonade on my own to get a corn dog and lemonade. That was like a rite of passage. I laugh thinking about old Fair romances. Being 8 or 9 or 10 and walking around the racetrack holding hands. You'd sometimes go through three "relationships" over the course of the week. As a kid, the freedom the Fair brought was always the best. Rules were amended or forgotten, because, "hey, it's the Fair." Three desserts? Staying up til 11pm? I love watching my nieces and nephews have that same experience.
What do you like best about the Fair now?
Porches. In the South, there's nothing like a porch. It's where we entertain, where we unwind. Porches are al fresco dining rooms, living rooms, and cocktail lounges all rolled into one. And nowhere is that truer than the Fair. Visiting and porch sitting are an art form here. And you see hospitality in its purest form.
What events or happenings do you attend each year at the Fair and why?
I rarely get to stay past the weekend anymore so I have to pack it in: Thacker Mountain Radio on Saturday night, Sunday afternoon horse races, Gaston's Sunday night shindig. But throughout the weekend, it's the late night catch-ups with friends that are my favorite. 3am seems to get here faster than it does in other places.
What are some of your favorite "family traditions" at the Fair?
Does swinging count as a tradition? We tend to spend a lot of quality time in the swing. One thing we do, we keep a kiddie pool at the cabin, and after lunch, we fill it up with ice cold water and circle around it to put our feet in. It's really the best way to cool down. Kind of like our own redneck spa.
What aspects of the Fair do you hope will never change?
The Houseparty. I hope The Fair will always be a place that's part family reunion, part supper club. From whole families sleeping in a single room packed with bunk beds to the distinct neighborhoods to the roving dinner parties, the whole cabin experience is the South's best expression of community.