The opening night of the 48th Mark Twain Old Threshers Show at the Paris Fairgrounds was off to a great start. Hundreds of people filed in to shell out $9 each for a fish fry, the weather was perfect, tables were packed and a group was singing very traditional country music. Volunteers prepared 225 pounds of catfish.

Angie Fields took one look around the foot tent on Thursday night and simply smiled.

The opening night of the 48th Mark Twain Old Threshers Show at the Paris Fairgrounds was off to a great start. Hundreds of people filed in to shell out $9 each for a fish fry, the weather was perfect, tables were packed and a group was singing very traditional country music. Volunteers prepared 225 pounds of catfish.

“I could not be more thrilled,” said the president of the Mark Twain Old Threshers Reunion. “What a wonderful day this has been.”

What a difference from 2016.

A year ago, the fish fry and the opening day of the show was cancelled because of a damaging storm that roared through Monroe County, generating winds in excess of 70 mph, knocking down trees and limbs and pulling the roof off buildings across the county. And the Paris Fairgrounds was a mess as nearly every tent and structure in place for the Threshers was knocked down.

But not in 2017. Crowds flocked in to see old tractors, horse shows, vintage cars and to eat food. Lots of food. More than 2,000 meals were served – nearly 300 pounds of pork steak, 26 gallons of baked beans, 400 hot dogs, 300 brats and 325 pounds of hamburger. During breakfast, show goers consumed 18 dozen eggs, 40 pounds of sausage and countless biscuits and gravy over three days. And this year, for the first time, cinnamon rolls were served.

“Honestly, Thursday and Friday nights we are positive that we had more people than have ever attended,” she said. “And we did very well on Saturday.”

On Saturday morning, volunteers welcomed a special group of senior citizens to the show from the Missouri Veterans Home in Mexico for breakfast. As they came off the bus, either by themselves or with assistance of the wheelchair lift, they are greeted by volunteers and led to tables beneath the good tent.

Fields whispered to an attendant from the home: “Whatever they want, it’s on us.”

As they waited for their breakfast, Ray Gallahan, who was a private first class in the United States Army in World War II, and Ron Sterrett, who served as an Army staff sergeant in the war, said that they were both in the Third Army, which was commanded by Gen. George S. Patton Jr., and they both participated in the remarkable counterattack that relieved the 101st Airborne Division, which had been surrounded by Nazi forces in the city of Bastogne, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.

“It was tough and it cold,” said Sterrett, who was a member if the famed Fourth Armored Division, which entered Bastogne on Dec. 26 to relieve the beleaguered members of the 101st Airborne. The 4th moved nonstop for nearly seven days to reach the encircled troops, surviving on K-rations. “Hot food, what was that?” he said as he started to eat his breakfast.

An annual highlight of the event is the baby show, which was held on Friday with winners selected for 0-6 months, 7-12 months, 13-18 months, 19-24 months, 25-35 months and 3-5 years old. Older age groups had the chance to compete as well. A prince and princess were selected from the age group 6-11 and a Miss Old Threshers from ages 12-18.

The Mark Twain Old Threshers is 501 (3) (c) nonprofit under the Internal Revenue Code, and uses money from the reunion to help fund charities in Monroe County, including Monroe County Cancer Supporters and the Madison and Paris FFA. Once expenses are paid, the organization will decide which charities to support this year. Planning is now under way for the 2017 show, Fields said, and the Old Mark Twain Threshers is seeking more members. The fee to join is $10 per year and Fields welcomes phone calls to 573-721-5705.