MY TOWN: STAR TO STARDOM

Faith Hill got her first taste of fame as a youngster in a tiny Mississippi town.

It seems only fitting that the internationally famous Faith Hill would hail from a town named Star. But the folks back home will tell you that Star, with a population of around 800, isn't really a town in the first place - it's a community.

"We have a Main Street, one Texaco, two flea markets and a railroad track," points out Nancy Young, who works at the local post office.

The Star community grew from the railroad, which carries cargo from the Gulf of Mexico to the South, and runs through Star about four or five times daily. The railroad tracks also provided entertainment, notably lacking in Star, for Faith and her teenage friends.

"We used to see how long we could stand on the track before the trains came," Faith once recalled. Faith would also practice her singing down by those tracks, where no one could hear.

These days Star has no public or private schools, though if you visit, you'll see the remnants of Star High School - which actually closed in the 1940s, and still remains vacant. Like most residents, Faith went to McLaurin High in nearby Florence. Former classmates and teachers remember her as an active, multitalented student who performed in musicals as a member of the drama club, played basketball, ran track and rooted for the school as a cheerleader.

"I remember watching her cheer at pep rallies," says school bookkeeper Brenda Owens. "Faith also came back in 1994 to sing the National Anthem at our football homecoming game."

Religion was also a big part of Faith's early life, as it was for many in the community. She attended Star Baptist Church, one of the first places where she learned to sing. Her parents, Ted and Edna Perry, attend the same church today.

Faith would steal the show by belting out hymns as loudly as she possibly could.

"I used to do that a lot," Faith recalled. "My mom used to say that I held the hymn book upside down, pretending I could read the words."

Faith often returns to visit her folks, and once remarked that, "My favorite vacation spot is my parents' home in Star."

Faith is still a favorite of the townspeople, as well.

"Everybody thinks a lot of Faith and her family," says Mayor Eddie Jones. "We miss her, but I know she's got a family that keeps her busy." With a laugh, Mayor Jones adds, "And she's doing very well, too."

Star residents agree that there's no place finer to be - or be from. "Everybody knows everybody," says Nancy Young, "and we all care about each other."

-- Jill Carlson

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