You look in yards and in flower gardens all over Rolling Fork and you'll see them. Bears. Well, not real ones but sculpted ones. They are here because the famous Delta Bear Hunt of Teddy Roosevelt in 1903 was just down the road at Smeed's Plantation. And from that bear hunt, because Roosevelt refused to shoot a tethered cub, came the idea for Ideal Toy Company's Teddy Bear.
So to celebrate the event, they have The Great Delta Bear Affair in Rolling Fork, on the 4th Saturday of October. People line the streets around the square and sell their wares. And there's food. So, if you ever go, go hungry. And of course there's a stage set up where live music is played all day and into the night. Ten o'clock in the morning and my friend King Edward already had ‘em going.
But besides the craftsmen and the food and the music, the biggest traditional element at the Great Delta Bear Affair has become the carving of the annual bear statue. Dayton Scoggins of Sandersville, Mississippi is carving this year's. The bear has the moustache of Teddy Roosevelt, but with a guitar in his hand. And he's adjacent to the Mississippi Blues Trail marker for Rolling Fork native Muddy waters. So, this year's is the Muddy Waters bear.
When Dayton cranks his chainsaw, he knows there's a bear in there somewhere. He just has to find him.
Scoggins says, "Yeah, I recon that's kinda more or less the way, you know. Because when I start, it looks like a tree to me and I start hunting it, you know. Once you get to a certain stage you kinda see where it's going."
It was Dayton's wife, Michelle, who urged him to put down his penknife whittling and pick up the chainsaw and do things on a grand scale. And within the first year after doing so, he was invited to a national competition out west.
"And he took first place. And they're like, where did this guy come from? Mississippi!"
Big bears or little bears, they are a staple with Dayton Scoggins, now.
"A bear will feed you. If you're a chainsaw carver and you don't live directly on the coast, bears is by far the number one seller," said Dayton.
Well, bears are really popular in Rolling Fork all year, but in particular on this one Saturday in October, when Mister Teddy comes to town and meets and greets folks and tells about the one he let get away. And if you want to see it, just slip around the corner and follow the sound of the chainsaw.
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