For the first time since 1943, Missouri State Fair makes major changes due to COVID-19


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Like many other festivals, the Missouri State Fair is going to look much different this year due to COVID-19. All events at the fair have been canceled except for youth livestock shows.

For the first time since 1943—when the country was in the midst of war—the Missouri State Fair is making some major changes to the 11-day fair. Instead of vendors, a carnival, concerts, and grandstand events, only the youth will be showcased during next month’s fair.

“You just combine all those different factors in there and, at some point, you just have to say this just isn’t going to work and, unfortunately, we had to come to that decision,” said Mark Wolfe, director of the Missouri State Fair.

The state fair has been added to the growing list of events claimed by the pandemic.

“I think the thought early on was this is going to get better, you know? I think a lot of folks thought that as the summer came along, it would get better. We thought that,” Wolfe said.

Just a month after canceling all the scheduled concerts at the fair, Wolfe said he got the call from the director of agriculture Friday to pull the plug.

“We did not cancel the Missouri State Fair in terms of an event,” Wolfe said. “It’s certainly not what people are used to seeing at the Missouri State Fair, obviously.”

Typically, the state fair brings 340,000 people to Sedalia each year, bringing in nearly $4 million in revenue.

Wolfe said the fair did not lose any money from deposits for the concerts or the carnival but offered for them to come back next year.

“A lot of our major revenue sources to put on the fair and to pay the electric bills and pay the premiums and do all the things that go into it had gone away,” Wolfe said.

Only 4H and FFA kids will be showcased at the fair.

“We are referring to it as pivoting to a normal state fair to a youth livestock show,” Wolfe said.

Some might say this new format of the fair might remind them of the olden days, Wolfe said.

“It was about showing off your prize livestock and that competition, that friendly competition between neighbors coming to the fair,” he said. “Who raised the best steer, who raised the best hog.”

Youth participants and their families will still have to may entry fees. Wolfe said there will still be prize money for the kids who place in the livestock shows.

“The future of our state’s agriculture are these youth, these 4H and FFA kids, and giving them the opportunity to come show and show what they did, I think is important,” Wolfe said.

As final plans are still in the works for the new format of the fair, Wolfe said the plans are to keep the dates of August 13 through August 23.

“It will still take us 10 days to get through this, even with our junior shows, if we stay with the schedule that we have,” he said.

Wolfe said the campgrounds will still be open and some vendors will still open their stands.

“Folks will be able to come out and find their favorite fair food. I think you’ll be able to find corndogs, funnel cakes, and things like that; just won’t be as many of them,” he said.

The youth livestock show is open and free for anyone that wants to attend. Wolfe said they previously ordered approximately 400,000 face masks for fairgoers to wear before making these changes. Those masks will be available inside the main gate.

As of right now, neither the city of Sedalia nor Pettis County has a face mask requirement. Wolfe said they are prepared if that happens.

“This is such a new thing that none of us have ever dealt with,” Wolfe said. “We are going to happily work with everybody is the way I’m going to look at it. We certainly want to be good partners to the community and we certainly don’t want to do things that put this community at risk.”

Besides the 400,000 masks the fair ordered, they also ordered new foggers to help sanitize areas across the fairgrounds. Wolfe said those will be used to help disinfect bathrooms during the livestock show.

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