Photo By: Carole Strobl
City of Paris, TN
The Paris community has long recognized the importance of maintaining a vital and vibrant downtown. Accordingly, an informal coalition of City and County governments, property owners, life-long downtown advocates and merchants have dedicated time and resources toward that goal.
Within the last twenty years the City has led the way by revitalizing the physical infrastructure – replacing aged sidewalks and curbs with handicap accessible, brick accented walkways with plantings, period lighting, and removing unsightly overhead lines. Many of the buildings around the court square provide a mix of retail and offices at ground level with residential on the second floor of many of the buildings, hence our motto, Shop/Eat/Live.
The County has renovated and maintained the Courthouse which is the anchor attraction. The courthouse is the oldest functioning courthouse in Tennessee, circa 1896. The courthouse is surrounded by well maintained storefronts from that era and later.
The Paris Commercial Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. This includes sections of East and West Wood, West Washington, North and South Poplar, North and South Market, Fentress and West Blythe Streets in downtown Paris, Tennessee.
Henry County is fortunate to have a strong tourism trade hosting numerous visitors each year. Downtown Paris along with the Kentucky Lake area are the two main attractions for our visitors.
The Downtown Paris Association is comprised of businesses and people throughout the community. The Downtown Paris Association, also known as the DPA, has constantly encouraged and worked with property owners and merchants to maintain and renovate properties. Each year the DPA organizes many events that utilize and focus on our picturesque downtown. In addition, the DPA constantly strives to work with the downtown businesses to promote the economic development of Downtown Paris.
The whole festival revolves around the “Fish Tent” where by last account over 12,500 pounds of catfish is served with all the trimmings. In addition to all you can eat catfish you will find parades, carnival, rodeos, catfish races, dances, arts and crafts to name a few. Events actually begin early in February with beauty pageants leading up to the week long celebration.
The “Fish Fry” as everyone calls it around here evolved from “Mule Day”, which originated in 1938 with the Paris Post Intelligencer as the first sponsor. Farmers came to town on the first Monday in April to trade their mules and other farm products, do their shopping and enjoy the fellowship of their friends. Early in the 1950’s the Chamber of Commerce took over “Mule Day” complete with a parade and beauty queens. When the tractor began to replace the mules the Chamber of Commerce contemplated another event to replace “Mule Day”.
In 1953, the Chamber of Commerce held the first “Fish Fry”. The event was not as successful as hoped. The fish were not from Kentucky Lake and just didn’t live up to the palates of the fish eating public. The parade was short and the event was held on the high school football field for one day and night.
In 1961 the Paris-Henry County Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce) took over the “Fish Fry” from the Chamber of Commerce.
Since 1961 and thanks to the Paris-Henry County Jaycees the festival has grown unbelievably from 1,600 pounds of catfish cooked to over 5 tons of catfish and a two hour grand parade.
The venue of the festival has moved from the court square, then to what was once known as the hitch lot just blocks from the court square, then back to a parking lot downtown and finally to a building at the Henry County Fairgrounds in the early 1980’s. In the early days the fish cooking was done outdoors and eaten on picnic tables under big tents, hence the term “Fish Tent”. It is now known as the Robert E. “Bobby” Cox Memorial Fish Tent.
The Jaycees continue to do a fantastic job organizing the event but also depend on many community volunteers to pull it off each year. The Paris-Henry County Jaycees are still growing the event and offering new and different things resulting in increased attendance, more catfish cooked and served.
The Jaycees and the community invite everyone to visit Paris and Henry County the last full week of April for a week of fun and southern hospitality!
For a complete list of events and activities please visit…