Walking In Memphis

carroll smith
Carroll Smith,

The Mid-South Farm and Gin Show is celebrating its 71st anniversary in 2023. I don’t remember the beginning of the show, but I recall walking the aisles for many years at different stages of my life. As a kid from rural Louisiana, the idea of going to a big city was overwhelming at best. The only thing that looked familiar to me was the Mississippi River that I grew up next to my entire life. While Dad talked to the people at the booths, I marveled at the big machinery and filled my sack with souvenirs to take home. 

Later on, my husband and I farmed in the Delta near Greenwood, Mississippi. The Gin Show was still a big deal, and Memphis was a great adventure. Some years we went by ourselves, and other years we went with a group of farmer friends. We walked the aisles, talked to exhibitors and took in whatever other opportunities were available from year to year. This timing was before the Internet, so if you wanted to know what was going on in the Mid-South ag world, you better show up at the Gin Show.

In the evening, we took in the local cuisine, including Charlie Vergos’ Rendevous, located in an intriguing brick alleyway catty-cornered to the Peabody Hotel. As the establishment’s website says, “In 1948, Charlie Vergos cleaned out a basement below his diner, discovered a coal chute and started a legend. The coal chute gave him a vent for his considerable talent over a grill and allowed him to expand from ham-and-cheese sandwiches to ribs. Today, several thousand people on an average Saturday night pour into our basement and sink their teeth into a slab of what makes Memphis, well, Memphis.” If you have never been there, it’s definitely worth a visit.

During my years as an ag journalist covering the show, the Ag Updates have been a “must attend.” As more educational opportunities have been added, they are front and center as well. A couple of light-hearted memories include the year the guys from Duck Dynasty showed up at an exhibitor’s booth to sign autographs and talk about their upcoming reality TV show. Another year, football legend Terry Bradshaw was hired by an exhibitor to sign autographs and be available for photo ops with Gin Show attendees. Yes, I still have my pic that was taken with Terry!

The Mid-South Farm and Gin Show has a history all its own. It means different things to different people, but everyone holds the memories close to their hearts. Come take a walk through the Renasant Center in Memphis next to the Mighty Mississip’ this February 24-25. You’ll be glad you did. 

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