Prentiss wagon leads dignitaries into Dixie National
Published 9:30 am Friday, February 17, 2023
Several from Prentiss participated this year in the Dixie National Wagon Train held last week. Frank and Shelly Riley have been involved with the train for eight years. “We started out with a small wagon we bought from a friend of mine here in Jefferson Davis County,” said Frank Riley. “We had a ball, so we started upgrading wagons until we bought the one we use today.”
In 1980, the first wagon train rolled into the Mississippi fairgrounds and started a tradition. Now there are eight wagon trains that take a week or so and travel down Mississippi backroads and highways towards the fairgrounds. They arrive on Thursday or Friday before the Dixie National parade in downtown Jackson the following Saturday.
The Rileys are part of the Mt. Olive Ride that begins just outside of Mize on Highway 35. Perry Sorey, of Prentiss, and his nephew Nate Sorey were also a part of the ride. The group started the journey with 25 wagons this year and 80 horses.
They left on Feb. 4, and traveled 109 miles until they arrived in Jackson on Feb. 9. Friday is a rest day for the horses to prepare for the parade the following day in downtown Jackson that kicks off the Dixie National Rodeo.
They stop for the night in pastures along the way that landowners have given them permission to use. Horse trailers and supplies are taken ahead to the next stop so when the train arrives everything is already there and set up for the night. Shelly Riley cooks lunch and supper for the group. Two of the Rileys’ grandchildren, Hunter Duke and Riley Jace Snellgrove, also made the trek with them this year.
At least one deputy from each county the train travels through provides safety and protection to the group. “Bigger cities like Richland in Rankin County have more officers to help us get across Highway 49.”
Along with the Dixie National Wagon Train, the parade includes an array of rodeo queens, marching groups, floats, car and tractor clubs, riding groups, dignitaries, and much more. After the parade some of the group is invited to go in the coliseum to open up the first afternoon of the rodeo. “We love doing it and look forward to it every year.”
This year Riley was honored to lead the Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson into the rodeo each night as he welcomes everyone. Dignitaries such as Michael Guest, Lynn Fitch, Delbert Hosemann, Phil Bryant will also be riding with Riley for the 12 performances in 10 days. “It’s pretty neat that two Jefferson Davis County mules are leading the Commissioner into the rodeo each night,” said Riley. “I have enjoyed that tremendously.”