Published Jan/Feb 2006

By Karen Gibson

Blue sky and green pine stretch as far as the eye can see in central Mississippi, a region that has a little something for every traveler. And Philadelphia, Miss., offers excitement, relaxation and a bit of nostalgia to its visitors.

Although President Martin Van Buren officially established Philadelphia in 1841, there was a Choctaw village here when Hernando de Soto was exploring the South in the 1540s. Philadelphia became a booming turn-of-the-century town and later was named Neshoba’s county seat.

Birthplace of the Choctaw

Halito. This is the traditional Choctaw greeting of a tribe that has lived here more than 500 years. But during the 1800s, tribes like the Choctaw were forced to follow the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Many–but not all–Choctaw left. They refused to leave Nanih Waiya (Sloping Hill), the sacred mounds where legend says the tribe was born.

The people who remained behind became the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The reservation in Choctaw, Miss., includes the Choctaw Museum of the Southern Indian. The Nanih Waiya Mound and Cave, sacred in Choctaw culture, are nearby.

Pearl River Resort, a modern Choctaw enterprise, was born in 2000. Like a gold beacon, Pearl River Resort (Highway 16 West) includes the Golden Moon Casino and Hotel plus the Silver Star Hotel and Casino. The Golden Moon’s 28-story gold façade is topped with a gold moon and offers 571 rooms, along with family friendly pools and restaurants.

Cross Highway 16 in a climate-controlled skyway to see the Silver Star. The Silver Star is perfect for the traveler wanting a little pampering. Enjoy a full spa experience after shopping in several boutiques. Families can enjoy the resort’s water theme park, Geyser Falls. People of all ages flock to the newest addition, the Beach Club at Clearwater Key. Golfers need not despair. The Pearl River Resort also features the Dancing Rabbit Golf Club with two highly rated 18-hole courses.

Historic and quaint

Philadelphia’s town square surrounds the Neshoba County Courthouse. Magnolia trees guard this recently renovated landmark building. More than 30 shops attract browsers and buyers. Stop by Stribling Drug Store (430 Beacon St.) for an old-fashioned milkshake served at the soda fountain.

East of downtown is the historic district, where 35 turn-of-the-century homes line Holland and Poplar avenues. Continue your trip to the past at Williams Brothers Store at the intersection of state Routes 16 and 15 in Williamsville. This general store still has the feel of 1907 when it first opened its doors.

Grandparents might be able to tell you about the country store of their youth. They might reminisce that at this one stop, folks could get a pair of blue jeans plus a slab of bacon for breakfast in the morning. Or you can visit Williams Brothers and see it for yourself. The porch still holds feed and seed. Step inside onto the wood floors and be prepared to stay awhile. You won’t know whether to check out the big wheels of cheese or the hats and boots first.

Good times for all

Mississippians appreciate celebrations. In Philadelphia, the year’s fun starts in April with the Ham Jam Arts Festival (April 21 and 22) downtown. The festival features a barbecue competition plus live entertainment, art, crafts and plenty of food.

Summer brings the annual Choctaw Indian Fair that celebrates the first ripening of corn and the beginning of the harvests. The fair is held on reservation grounds July 12–15 where visitors are invited to enjoy good food and beautiful craftwork.

All this leads to the great-grandmother of festivals, the Neshoba County Fair. Nicknamed Mississippi’s Giant House Party, this year’s fair will run July 21–28 on the fairgrounds. Harness racing is a popular event at this 117-year-old fair, plus enjoy traditional food, rides and music.

Karen Gibson is a contributor from Norman, Okla.

Above: Golden Moon Casino and Hotel has 571 rooms, a pool and restaurant.
Neshoba County Tourism photo

Above: Choctaw culture abounds in Neshoba County.
Mississippi Tourism photo

Before You Go
For more information, contact the Neshoba County Community Development Partnership,
(601) 656-1000 or visit online at www.neshoba.org.

Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.

Order free information through the Reader Service Card online. Click on Reader Resources.

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