In the wake of COVID-19 closures and concerns, more than half of the nation’s state fairs have been canceled or modified for 2020, according to press reports and online postings. The Missouri State Fair is among those that have curtailed most traditional events. Only youth livestock shows and sales are now scheduled to happen as planned Aug. 13-23 in Sedalia.
The switch to this pared-down version of the fair was announced July 17, a drastic departure from plans released just a month earlier to continue most fair activities with the exception of live concerts and a few other features. Concerns about public safety and the withdrawal of major sponsors and vendors were cited as reasons for the cancellation of all events not related to youth livestock exhibitions.
Keeping the livestock competitions intact maintains the fair’s mission to showcase agriculture, said Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn.
“The most important thing the fair does is tell the story of agriculture,” Chinn said. “This is the most basic function of the Missouri State Fair, and it’s one that is the center of the fair this year. The young exhibitors who have quickly learned to be flexible and adaptable show me the promise in agriculture’s youth. I’ve watched as 4-H and FFA members across the state, uncertain if their county fairs or state fair will even go on, still go out and walk their livestock, clean them and teach them to do well in a show ring. It’s an act of endurance, and it’s one that is desperately needed right now.”
MFA will continue to support the state fair by providing in-kind donations that include feed, cattle panels for sale rings, water tanks, trophies and awards.
The Missouri State Fair, which started in 1901, has only been canceled one time. That was during World War II.
Most of Missouri’s neighbors have also canceled or modified state fair plans. The exception is the Kentucky State Fair, which is scheduled for Aug. 20-30 with COVID-19 contingencies in place. Like Missouri, Nebraska and Kansas changed their state fairs to events centered around livestock competitions. The Arkansas State Fair, previously scheduled for October, has been canceled but may consider holding youth livestock shows. Cancellations have been announced in Iowa, Illinois and Tennessee, which opted not to hold state fairs for the first time since World War II. In Oklahoma, it’s the first time without a state fair since it began in 1907.
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