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A Fair Test

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The just concluded Delta Fair on the Agricenter grounds, the third such event, proved several things — most notably, 1) that the appetite for a sizable fall celebration, complete with Midway rides, candied apples, carny games, musical

acts, and even, as of this year, a livestock show of sorts, still exists in Shelby County; and 2) that the Agricenter grounds provide an ideal venue for a full-fledged fair.

Judging by the turnout, the annual Germantown Festival, primarily a crafts-oriented affair, did well, too, as did downtown's recent Music and Heritage Festival.

Coming up this weekend, the annual Cooper-Young Festival is another convincing proof that public revels in the early autumn are live and well and an established tradition of the people, by the people, and for the people of a celebration-hungry city and county.

Frankly, we don't know much about the upcoming "MemphisFest" that we've seen advertised on billboards around town, other than it is to take place the last week of this month at the fairgrounds, coinciding with the simultaneous holding of the Mid-South Fair, a vintage institution which has now decamped to DeSoto County.

But this new local offering is a further indication that fair fever has not left town for good. And it could tell us something about the future viability of the fairgrounds site, which is now the subject of competitive offerings for development.

All in all, the month of September, when it comes to an end, will have afforded a fair test of what might still be done to accommodate large and festive public assemblies in Memphis and Shelby County. We hope that the politicians now running for mayor, most of whom will be pressing the flesh at some or all of these celebrations, take proper note and share with the rest of us their own perceptions about what these events might tell us — about commercial prospects for the future, about the continued prospects of Memphis and Shelby County as a regional linchpin, and about the outlook for those of us who live here as a common culture.

The Wilson Affair

We find ourselves fearing the worst about the unforgiveable outburst of South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson on the floor of the House last week. "You lie!" Wilson shouted at the president of the United States just as Obama was attempting to reassure his national audience that illegal aliens would not be entitled to claim benefits under his proposed plan.

The proposition itself might indeed be debatable. That's not the issue. Nor is it the matter of simple civility. Wilson's contemptuous and contemptible behavior speaks to the possibility of something more ominous, the persistence of a resentful and racially inflected attitude toward our first truly multi-ethnic president — and not just in South Carolina and not, for that matter, just in the South.

Too much of the organized anti-Obama rhetoric — consider only the "birther" movement and the campaign to prevent the president from addressing the nation's schoolchildren — has been characterized by an obvious reluctance to grant Obama his due, not only as a leader but as a citizen.

It is an understatement to call this sentiment appalling.

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