Last year, the 152nd Mid-South Fair touted the event as its last at the Mid-South Fairgrounds, the location it called home for generations. The official Mid-South Fair moved to DeSoto County this year, but the organization hasn't left the city altogether.
From September 25th through October 4th, the Mid-South Fair will operate two events: the original fair at the DeSoto Civic Center and Memphest, a new "urban fair" held at the Fairgrounds.
"The fair at the DeSoto Civic Center will feature all the things that have traditionally been associated with the fair: rides, food, outdoor music, livestock, and petting zoos. We'll have a rodeo inside the civic center, and we'll have our youth talent contest, as well as the exhibits and the creative arts," said Jim Rout, former Shelby County mayor and general manager of the Mid-South Fair.
"Memphest will have a midway with all the lights and Ferris wheels," Rout said. "We'll also have an outdoor stage with live music, but there will be no livestock, no rodeo, no creative arts, and no exhibits. It's more of a food, rides, and music festival."
The musical lineups for each event are tailored to different demographics. The DeSoto fair boasts country music star Martina McBride. The Memphest lineup includes Soulja Boy, Yo Gotti, and Bret Michaels.
Several years ago, the city of Memphis began discussions of a re-use plan for the Fairgrounds, and, according to Rout, those plans didn't involve the Mid-South Fair. The fair's lease was up in June of this year, and the organization began making plans for an alternate location.
"It was thought that development at the Fairgrounds would probably be started by now," Rout said.
A permanent fair site in Tunica County, Mississippi, has been chosen, but Rout said financial concerns have gotten in the way of constructing the proper buildings needed to house exhibit space. In the meantime, the Mid-South Fair is being held at the DeSoto Civic Center.
At the fairgrounds in Memphis, redevelopment plans have stalled. Another group wanted to host a fair there, but the already-departed Mid-South Fair was given first right of refusal.
"We were told if we didn't take those dates, someone else would be out here," Rout said, "so we decided to be our own competitor."
Earlier this month, city mayor pro tem Myron Lowery announced a $175 million alternative to the plan put forth by developer Henry Turley (one of the stockholders of the Flyer's parent company). Plans for the fairgrounds will determine whether or not Memphest has a future in the city.
"We'd love to make it an annual event. We think it will be good for Midtown and people inside the city limits. It gives an opportunity for a little different flavor," Rout said. "But it's out of our hands. If they're still debating what to do with this property next year, we'd love to do it again."