PELAHATCHIE, Miss. (WJTV) – The Neshoba County Fair may be the largest camp meeting in the state, but it’s not the oldest.
There is one in Rankin County that was organized 50 years earlier, and like Blues music and Gospel are similar but very different, so is the Shiloh Church Camp meeting from the Neshoba County Fair.
In a lot of ways, the two meetings are very similar, too. In both cases, people leave their homes and move into cabins for the run of the event. Only at Shiloh, they call them ‘tents’– a carry over from when people came here and actually put up tents to stay in before they built the cabins. And whereas the Neshoba Fair is centered around the fairgrounds and nightly entertainment, the Shiloh Camp Meeting is centered around the open air tabernacle and a nightly revival meeting.
But similarly, they are also big family reunions and kids get to meet and know their cousins- and everybody else cousin in the community. Shiloh already held their summer camp revival this year in June. That’s a departure from tradition that holds meetings like this are usually in the last part of July or the first part of August. That’s in keeping with the farm calendar. Late July the corn has already been harvested- ‘laid by’ as the old folks call it, and the cotton hasn’t bloomed yet. So with nothing much to do on the farm, it’s a perfect time to have a get together. In Neshoba County, it’s been the County Fair since 1889- in the Shiloh community just south of Pelahatchie, it has been the annual summer church revival since 1832.
Shiloh isn’t the only church camp meeting revival in the state. Salem Methodist outside off Lucedale has been meeting every October since 1822, except two years during the Civil War. The open air nightly meeting tends to be a bit cooler in October than the meetings held in summer, but it’s singing and preaching and praying and a lot of playing at camp meeting.
I guess one other modern adjustment from the past for the revival camp meetings, whereas in grandparents and great grandparents and beyond day, the meeting was something they looked forward to for weeks because there was little else to do. In today’s busy world, we have to clear our calendars to make time for them.
By the way, Salem Church at Lucedale is having their annual meeting this year from October 4 through October 11, and although these meetings are rooted in antiquity, the services will be streamed on the internet.