Mississippi is bringing practically everything but the kitchen sink to show off the state’s bounty at this year’s Sunbelt Expo, and there may even be a kitchen sink somewhere in its exhibit.
That’s what can happen when a state is selected to be the Spotlight State at the Sunbelt Expo, which annually honors one of the 10 Southeastern states that have participated in the Expo during its 38-year history.
Organizers hope to show visitors that things indeed are “Sweeter in Mississippi,” which is the theme of this year’s Spotlight State exhibit. They are bringing a number of examples for Expo visitors to enjoy.
“We wanted to make sure visitors to the Sunbelt Expo get a taste of the state of Mississippi,” said Gary Jackson, Mississippi State University Extension Service Director. “We and our partners are grateful to Sunbelt Expo for providing us with this opportunity and such a great facility to showcase the value of Mississippi agriculture on the grounds in Moultrie.”
Several organizations have come together to make the exhibit memorable – and tasty:
- The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation will serve fried catfish nuggets and honey candy.
- Mississippi State University will offer samples of its famous Edam cheese.
- The Mississippi Sweet Potato Council will be provide sweet potato cake bites.
- The MSU Coastal Research and Extension Center will be serving shrimp.
A special feature will be a display from Alcorn State University commemorating the 125th anniversary of the passage of the second Morrill Act. Alcorn State representatives will also serve soy nut cookies.
There will also be hands-on activities galore, including:
- Maggie the cow you can “milk” to help remind visitors of the importance of dairy farmers. (The mechanical cow will be filled with water.)
- A Wood Magic trailer to highlight products from the state’s forestry industry.
- A 4-H Outdoor/ATV safety exhibit.
- Mississippi’s Master Gardeners will demonstrate accessible gardening in a herb table.
- The MSU School of Human Sciences Fashion Design and Merchandising students will provide dress forms with apparel spotlighting cotton fabrics.
- A video display will showcase “FarmWeek,” the MSU Extension Service’s weekly farm broadcast, as well as footage from the Mississippi Tourism Association and the Farm Families of Mississippi Campaign.
Visitors are invited to relax in rocking chairs on the exhibit building’s “front porch.” The structure simulating the front porch will be auctioned off following the Expo.
And Mississippi attendees will also feel right at home when they see the giant mural, depicting the cabins at the Neshoba County Fair, a well-known gathering place called Mississippi’s Giant House Party on the exhibit building’s exterior wall.
The exhibit will be opened by Cindy Hyde-Smith, commissioner of the Mississippi Department of agriculture and forestry, during ceremonies on Oct. 20, the first day of the show. Also on hand will be Allen Eubanks, this year’s Mississippi Sunbelt Expo Farmer of the Year and a 2,500-acre fruit and vegetable grower from Lucedale. Eubanks hopes to join Kenneth Hood of Gunnison, Willard Jack of Belzoni and the late Ed Hester of Benoit as Sunbelt Southeastern Farmers of the Year.
Agriculture is a $7.7-billion-a-year (farm-gate value) contributor to Mississippi’s economy. It’s estimated the sector brings $16.7 billion in value-added dollars to the state each year. Mississippi ranks in the top 20 in the production of 15 agricultural commodities ranging from catfish to watermelons.
“We are thrilled to be the Spotlight State at this year’s Sunbelt Ag Expo. As Mississippians, we are extremely proud of our state, and this opportunity allows us to showcase our robust agriculture industry. Agriculture is important to all of the participating states, and, though many of the states have similar agricultural landscapes, being the spotlighted state allows us to really show the uniqueness and excellence of Mississippi agriculture," said Cindy Hyde-Smith, Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce.