The first time I ever went to the Cotton Pickin' Fair in Gay, Ga., I spent maybe an hour, walking from booth to booth down the town's main street. There were 30 booths.
It will take all day to walk the eight acres the fair has grown to today. There's no telling how many booths will be set up for this weekend.
The 78th edition of the Cotton Pickin' Fair will be 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. OK, if you're doing the math, you know that 78 years have not passed since the first one in 1972. The number comes from the fact that since 1977, the fair's organizers decided to hold it twice a year -- the first weekend of May and October.
The town of Gay is named for William Franklin Gay, a cotton plantation owner in Meriwether County. His grandson, William Franklin Gay II, was afraid that after I-185 was built, Gay would become a ghost town. Back before the interstate was built, to get to Atlanta from Columbus, you had to drive through Warm Springs and Gay.
One year, the fair's organizer, Ellen Gay McEwen came to see me with her mother, Joann Gay Fischer, who told me the funniest story. It was around that time when her late husband was thinking of ideas to promote the town. She woke him up, with the brilliant idea of having a fair. A groggy Mr. Gay said, "You want to have an affair?"
She said after laughing, she told him she wanted to have a fair. By that time, he was awake and got to work on putting a fair together. At first, it was to promote Gay as the antiques center of Georgia.
Now, the fair is on the grounds of the family's plantation. The buildings hold antiques and fine arts. The booths outside have everything from food, folk art, baskets, jewelry, clothing, jams and jellies, collectibles and even fresh produce.
Meriwether County no longer produces any cotton, but you can walk though the old cotton gin warehouseon the grounds.
There's entertainment throughout the day, including country and bluegrass acts, cloggers and kids' entertainers.
It's just $7 to enter the grounds; $3 for children ages 7-12 and children ages 6 and younger get in free. Pets are not allowed.
The fair is at 18830 Ga. 85 in Gay, which is about 50 miles north of Columbus.
Tell Ellen I said, "Hi!"