The 2019 Missouri State Fair officially kicked off Thursday morning with state and local officials hosting the Opening Ceremony outside the Agriculture Building Thursday morning.
Speakers included Missouri State Fair Director Mark Wolfe, Missouri Director of Agriculture Chris Chinn, Missouri State Fair Commission Chairman Kevin Roberts and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe. They all focused on the fun that can happen at the state fair along with the importance of agriculture in Missouri.
“Agriculture is at the core of the mission of the Missouri State Fair and it has been since the start of the fair in 1901,” Wolfe said. “It is fitting we are here on this beautiful Missouri morning in front of the Agriculture Building to kick off this year’s event. I’m sure many of you have heard it said and will likely hear it several more times, agriculture is the foundation of this state and this state fair. It is the cornerstone of a strong Missouri economy, it’s the state’s No. 1 industry and I stand proudly here before you to represent this great fair which has stayed true to its agriculture roots and showcases the best of the best in Missouri agriculture.”
Wolfe noted the state fair is an “outstanding platform” for those in agriculture as well as a learning opportunity for those Missourians not involved.
Wolfe also noted the Missouri Legislature approved roughly $8.5 million for upgrades and repairs on the fairgrounds. Those projects are expected to begin later this year and be completed in time for the 2020 fair. Other upgrades were completed before the 2019 fair including a renovated Charolais Barn, concrete work in front of the Coliseum and water system upgrades.
According to Chinn, there are 162,000 farmers in Missouri, including herself and Gov. Mike Parson, both generational farmers, and Kehoe, a first-generation farmer. She said the state fair is the time for those people to shine and showcase agriculture.
“We all know it’s been a very challenging year in agriculture this year. We faced so many hardships, but the one thing you see here at the Missouri State Fair are farmers and rancher and small-business owners coming together to support each other to make sure their neighbors are OK,” Chinn said. “It’s kind of like getting your cup filled back up, you get re-energized being at the state fair … Despite all of our challenges we had this last year with flooding, with low commodity prices, we’re still the No. 1 economic driver in the state of Missouri. Agriculture is an $88 billion industry. We employ over 400,000 Missourians and 97% of our 100,000 farms are owned and operated by families.”
Kehoe echoed Chinn’s sentiments, saying the summer flooding and tornadoes brought Missourians together.
“I love the saying … in Missouri we don’t just know our neighbors, we help our neighbors. And that’s what we saw through the flooding and tornadoes, we got through all that,” he said. “And this fair is kind of a perfect time with a perfect theme of ‘Welcome Home’ because it’s time to showcase what Missouri is all about.”
Kehoe said as he met people during disaster cleanup, he connected with former 4-H and FFA students who are now adults serving their community. He commended those groups for teaching work ethic and the importance of agriculture.
He concluded his remarks by recalling a recent conversation with some citizens in the St. Louis area who asked why the state fair is important. A few others told him they had attended, and he said as people from urban areas continue visiting the fair they learn about “what a great state Missouri is” and about its No. 1 industry.
“I think the state fair does a good job of bringing together rural versus urban. We are one Missouri, we’ve seen that in our disasters, but we really are one Missouri,” he said. “The state fair does a fantastic job of bringing all those folks together and I’m proud to be a small part of it today.”