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Mild weather leads to record attendance at the Missouri State Fair


By Linda McNatt

Photo courtesy of MO State Fair

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Just a couple of days before the Missouri State Fair was due to shut down for another year, marketing director Tammie Nichols was making predictions.

She said she saw the fair bringing in record attendance this year, with more than 350,000, the number who attended the fair last year, coming through the main gates.

"Yes, we're seeing an increase in attendance this year," she said. "This year, we've seen temperatures in the 70s and 80s. Last year, we had the summertime 90s. We're seeing many more people with lots of smiles and we've got lots of indoor venues for them to enjoy as well."

There was a family day dinner on Monday, honoring outstanding farm families from the counties surrounding Sedalia, a city in central Missouri. The dinner was sponsored by the Missouri Farm Bureau, the State Department of Agriculture, MPhoto By MO State Fairissouri State Fair, University of Missouri Extension and the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

There were other special recognition days as well, honoring senior citizens, the governor's legislators and judges and a Youth in Agriculture Day on Saturday, Aug. 17, sponsored by Tractor Supply. Law Enforcement and firefighters were honored on Sunday, Aug. 18.

Nichols said there's probably a good reason for the big attendance at the fair this year. Drought isn't the same problem it was last year, she said. Farmers haven't had as much to worry about. They have less stress to contend with.

"Last year, with all of the problems, the people didn't have much time to get away from their operations," she said.  "This year, for the most part, they've taken the time, and they all seem to be enjoying it."

With a theme this year of "Chicks Dig It," John Deere tractors seemed to decorate the entire fair grounds, spread over acres and acres of what once was prairie.

Just as it was meant to do when it was organized in 1901, the fair focused on farm animals, crops and farmers. The tradition continued in 2013.  Kayla Morrow, the daughter of Kevi and Twila Morrow, won the grand champion designation with her 1,311-pound prize-winning crossbred steer. Kayla is a member of the Nevada Future Farmers of America Chapter in Nevada.

The reserve champion award went to Mackenzie Mawson, daughter of Rodney and Kay Mawson. Her crossbred steer weighed 1,315 pounds. Mackenzie is a member of the Archie Future Farmers of America club in Archie, Missiouri.

The prize-winning entry in the meat goat competition went to Carter Ward, a member of the Plattsburg 4-H club in Plattsburg, Mo. His goat weighed 70 pounds. Gage Porter won the reserve grand champion meat goat award with a 77-pound goat. Gage is a member of the North Mercer FFA chapter in North Mercer.
"The livestock shows were outstanding this year," said Nichols. "We had more entries and far more kids participated."

The history of the fair is built on the agricultural lifestyle the people of Missouri enjoy.

MO State FairThe fair started in 1901 when a group of citizens toured six cities in central Missouri. Representing the state Board of Agriculture, members were treated to dinners and each city promised $20,000 contributions should the committee decide for its town. It was decided to locate the fair in Sedalia. The first fair was held in September, in the midst of a drought.

"The exhibition of livestock at the Missouri State Fair, to be held in Sedalia September 9 - 13, will be the finest aggregation of pure blood of all breeds ever seen in this state," a newspaper article at the time offered, according to the fair's website.

Popular contests of early fair days included cracker eating, pie eating, sausage eating, nail driving and "guess how many kernels of corn a hog can eat in a day" contests.

In 2005, the fair that is still known as the "drought buster" brought with it 11 days of solid rain.

Fair admission was $8 for adults, $6 for senior citizens and $2 for children from ages 6 to 12. Once inside, attendees were treated to at least four stages of comedy and variety acts with free admission. The price to get in also was discounted with the donation of canned food. All of the food went to the Missouri Food Bank.

The midway was brought in by the Wade Shows and Murphy Brothers, said Nichols.
"We have a beautiful, beautiful midway," she said. "There are lots of rides that everybody can enjoy."

Weekday midway wristbands were offered for $25 weekdays and $30 on weekends and $15 on Sunday, Aug. 18, the final day of the fair. Walgrens Pharmacy offered a Mega Pass good for rides for four days at $45.

Meanwhile, the future farmers were raising even to help for the Food Bank. The organization was attempting to build a mural of the FFA emblem using 6,000 cans of food with yellow and blue labels. People who wanted to participate in the building of the mural purchased a can of food. The purchase price and the food went to the state food bank.

Historic rock and roll visited the fair this year when legendary rock star Chubby Checker performed on the main stage.

Toby Keith was there on Friday. Nichols said he was  another popular attraction. Keith is known for his hit, "How Do you Like me Now?," first released in 1998. The song was the number one country song of 2000.

Also on tap to perform was Hinder, a rock band that originated in Oklahoma and is known for the song "Lips of an Angel."

Grounds entertainment included jousting with Knights of Valor, Spoon Man, Bronkar's Circus of Sound, Songblast Dueling Guitars and the Missouri State Fair Idol Contest. The First Place winner took home $500.

Nichols said that one of the most popular acts at the fair involved - of course - animals.

Welde's Big Bear Expedition had 14 grizzly bears performing on stage. The bears are trained by third generation animal trainer Johnny D. Welde. The bears and their trainer live at Bearadise Ranch in Florida during the off season.

The Missouri State Fair operates on a budget of $4.5 million with about $550,000 provided by the state.

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