Gay Pariee, Tennessee Style
Story and photos by Kathleen Walls
Antique stove in the Market Street Antique Mall
"I love Paris in the spring time. I love Paris in the fall." Love the Eiffel Tower by moonlight. Love the Fish Fry most of all. Fish Fry? In Paris? Wait a minute! Yup, that's right. This is Paris Tennessee, home of the World's Biggest Fish Fry. For the past forty five years, this tiny town feeds all comers some of the best catfish in the world. They must be doing it right since last April the event drew over 100,000 visitors.
The Fish Fry originated in 1938 as "Mule Day". On the first Monday in April farmers would congregate in town to swap mules and tall tales. In the early fifties, the Chamber of Commerce, who sponsored the event began looking for a replacement event since the tractor was fast replacing the mule. The first Fish Fry was held in 1953 and didn't create any big stir. But great events grow from humble beginnings. Today the Fish Fry, now managed by the Jaycees, serves over 10,000 pounds of Catfish.
It takes a lot more than fried fish and hush puppies to make a truly great event. This is a chance for the entire community to come together and strut its stuff. For the last full week in April,- the fish fry tent is only open from Thursday through Saturday, but the other events start that Sunday- the locals pull out all stops to show you a good time. The all you can eat fish, Hush Puppies, French Fries, Cole Slaw, White Beans and soft drink might be the headline event but there is so much more.
Events kick off with a street dance and a country dance.A carnival with its exciting rides and midway offer fun and excitement for kids of all ages. The Treadway Rodeo brings the excitement of bucking broncos and bulls to Paris this week. Of course, arts and crafts are found at the fairgrounds for the event. The Grand Parade with its colorful floats and celebrity grand marshall are a highlight of the festivities. The youngsters aren't left out. They have their own "Small Fry Parade" and a junior fishing rodeo. And no festival could be without the Classic Car Show. Perhaps the wackiest event is the Catfish Race. Live catfish are dumped into a long clear plastic run and "race" for the finish line. Everyone comes out a winner at this event.
Tennessee's own Eiffel Tower
For a small town. Paris has a lot of other superlatives. For instance it has the world's largest scale model replica of the Eiffel Tower. It is located near Kentucky Lake, one of the world's largest man made lakes, in case you want to do some fishing of your own..
While you're working off the fish dinner, how about shopping? While it many not rival the Paris on the other side of the big water, it does boast some of the best antique shopping in the country. The Market Street Antique Mall, with 60,000 square feet under one roof, considers itself the largest in Tennessee. It even has its own real restaurant that's a far cry from the usual "Flea Market" food booth.
Paris' downtown provides a charming 1920s atmosphere for browsing the quaint shops. Unlike many small towns, there are about forty or fifty prosperous stores around the square. Also be sure to visit the Heritage Center to learn a bit about the history of this fascinating city.
For information on Paris or the Fish Fry contact Paris-Henry County Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-345-1103 or e-mail email@example.com