The Missouri State Fair’s commitment to youth in agriculture took center stage during opening ceremonies on Wednesday as public officials and community leaders dedicated the new MFA Youth Livestock Arena.
The $600,000 project — spearheaded by the Missouri State Fair Foundation — was financed exclusively through private funds, including $200,000 in seed money from MFA Inc., MFA Oil Co., their associated charitable foundations and some 25 affiliate cooperatives. The seed money donation is “a way for us to give back to our community,” said MFA Inc. President Bill Streeter during remarks to a sizable crowd of donors, youth exhibitors and members of the public gathered at the new facility, which is located adjacent to the Coliseum.
“When we see a project that is worthy and important to the membership in our territory, we pool our resources. We are proud to be a part of rural America and proud to be part of rural Missouri,” Streeter said. “We also want to thank all the others who pitched in and helped out to make this happen.”
Supporters expect the facility to be used extensively throughout the fair, which runs through Aug. 18, as well as a new venue for off-season livestock and horse shows on the fairgrounds. Dr. Jack Magruder, chairman of the Missouri State Fair Commission, thanked MFA and scores of business and individual donors for their support of the fair and its place as a showcase for the state’s agricultural legacy.
“It is a privilege to welcome all of you to this wonderful example of generosity today. This is something that is going to last a long, long time and will enhance the activities of the Missouri State Fair, especially the young people interested in pursuing a noble profession associated with agriculture,” Magruder said.
That sentiment was echoed by Fair Director Mark Wolfe, who thanked youth, parents and donors for coming together in support of the project, calling it “another milestone” for the fairgrounds and noting that some 4,000 4-H and FFA exhibitors will participate in showcase competitions during this year’s fair.
“What a beautiful new facility,” Wolfe said. “I would like to thank you for your trust in our stewardship of the new MFA Livestock Arena.”
Dr. John Hagler, Missouri Director of Agriculture , served as keynote speaker at the ceremony and said the new arena will help to reinforce the fair’s 111-year history as “the premiere showcase” for Missouri agriculture.
“Since that first fair in 1901 we have seen thousands of dedicated livestock producers and farm family make the trip to the fair. That first fair was ... known to have the finest pure breed livestock anywhere available in the world. If you take a trip today through the barns you will see that that commitment to quality has not wavered one bit. Our youth exhibitors continue not only to uphold the pride and proud tradition of Missouri agriculture, but they have far exceeded our greatest expectations,” Hagler said. “Today is a great day for agriculture; a proud day for agriculture.”