Mississippi College

MC Alums Network at Neshoba County Fair

July 29, 2008

Mississippi College alums gathered for sweet tea, brownies, and chicken and hours of conversation at rustic cabins along Happy Hollow. The MC crowd spiced up the festivities at the 2008 Neshoba County Fair.

President Lee Royce, alumni affairs director Ross Aven and members of MC's admissions team greeted visitors to cabin 228 on Monday evening and delivered the latest news about the Christian university in Clinton. Stan Yates, and his wife, Debbie, both mid-1970s MC alums from Philadelphia, began hosting the Neshoba gathering at their cabin in 2003 and their Southern hospitality hasn't stopped since.

Home to harness racing, dozens of political speakers, carnival games, 4-H exhibits, big-name entertainers, a petting zoo and much more, Mississippi's Giant Houseparty instantly becomes a city of 10,000 visitors every summer. They are all keen on fellowship and fun. Political fans got the chance to see then presidential candidate Ronald Reagan speak to Neshoba fair-goers in 1980.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Republican Third District candidate Gregg Harper, a 1978 MC graduate, and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran will be among the speakers later this week.

Monday's gathering was a low-key affair that brought together members of the MC family, many from east Mississippi towns.

"This is a good way to network with the MC family,'' said Debbie Yates, a 1975 MC accounting graduate and a CPA. A Pascagoula native, Debbie and her husband, Stan, a general manager at Yates Construction, made sure their guests felt welcome and received refills of iced tea on a sweltering Mississippi summer day.

For many of the guests, getting to see old friends at the Neshoba County fair was much easier than driving to their alma mater in Clinton amid $4 per gallon gas prices.

Stopping by the cabin to greet President Royce, Ward Calhoun of Meridian, a chief deputy with the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office, took a few minutes away from his job working security at the fair. A 1987 MC grad, he said it's been at least eight years since he's been back to the Clinton campus because he's been busy raising a family. Going to the Yates' cabin was one way to get re-connected with his MC friends.

With 600 individually owned cabins on the grounds and space for more than 500 RV units, the Neshoba County Fair is the perfect place for Mississippi College alums to convene. MC's banner on the Yates' cabin welcomed fans of the Choctaws and future Choctaws.

MC graduates like John McCormick of Brandon, Class of 1965, made sure his grandchildren, got to join the MC festivities. Wearing an MC shirt, his seven-year-old granddaughter, Grayson Johns, of Georgia could become a Choctaw in a little more than a decade, noted the BellSouth retiree. But Monday night, Grayson was more interested in getting her share of chicken nuggets and brownies.

Others making the rounds at the Neshoba fair included WLBT-TV 3 meteorologist and MC communication graduate Barbie Bassett and her 4-month-old daughter Lilly Faith Bassett. MC admissions team representatives on hand included Thomas Webb, Elizabeth Wallace, Lyndsey Hester, Brandi Brown, Jessica Followell and Robby Followell.

Amy Hederman, a 1996 MC graduate who grew up in Philadelphia, didn't want to miss the gathering of the Choctaw faithful. The Flowood mom brought her three children to the Yates cabin in Happy Hollow and quickly got caught up about the MC family. Don't be surprised if her three young kids, Michael, Avery and Erin Hederman, become part of the next generation of MC Choctaws.

Aven said the trip is part of a growing outreach to MC alums around the state and beyond its borders. Future events are planned for MC alumni in Tupelo, Oxford, Birmingham, Atlanta and cities in the Florida Panhandle. MC leaders are also planning to welcome thousands of alums for Homecoming weekend Oct. 24-25 on the Clinton campus.

PHOTO: Debbie and Stan Yates

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