In case you haven’t noticed, Sedalia, it’s just about time for the 2019 Missouri State Fair to begin.
I’ve said it in previous columns and I’m not afraid to admit it: I like the state fair. Sure, there’s traffic and Walmart is overrun with visitors, but Sedalia benefits greatly from this major agriculture and tourism event so I figure we might as well embrace it. Here are my suggestions for a visit to the state fair:
• Food: No trip to the state fair is complete without a corndog. While there are numerous options, I’m partial to Sedalia-owned Dick’s Corn Dogs, right across from the Grandstand. Missouri is known for barbecue, so I always make at least one trip to Jackson’s; pulled pork sandwich is my go-to, but I’ve also been advised to get the ribeye sandwich.
When you’re looking for dessert, look no further than the Gerken Dairy Center, which is celebrating 20 years in 2019. I get plenty of ice cream during the fair, so I try to switch up the flavors. I’ve heard this year’s special flavors include birthday cake to mark the milestone. Somehow I’ve never had pineapple whip (you can stop looking so shocked now), so that’s on my list too.
• Entertainment: The Pepsi Grandstand offers eight concerts and several tractor and racing events, but there is entertainment to be found all over the fairgrounds. Some great, fun Missouri-based bands perform each night at the Budweiser Stage and all of those concerts are free once you pay gate admission. There’s also the Kids Stage, music and other performers on the Touchstone Energy Stage and the Ditzfeld Stage, and the ever-popular Hedrick’s Racing Pigs Show (get there early if you want a seat). Whether or not you make it into the Grandstand, there will be fireworks shows again this year after the concerts Aug. 8-10, Aug. 14 and Aug. 16-17.
• Livestock: Yes, there is a lot of food, yes there is a carnival and yes there are Grandstand concerts, but the Missouri State Fair is focused on agriculture. Whenever someone asks me where they should go at the fair, one of my first suggestions is always to check out the livestock barns or a livestock show. It’s impressive to see the 4-H and FFA students working with their animals. My family enjoys watching the draft horse show in the Mathewson Exhibition Center, and this year we’ll see some special guests: the Budweiser Clydesdales will be participating in addition to their daily parades around the fairgrounds. Livestock shows vary each day, so peek your head in an arena or barn to see what’s happening. Take some advice from Missouri State Fair Director Mark Wolfe: “Be adventurous, don’t be afraid to walk in buildings and down streets to find out what’s there.”
• Places to wander: The livestock shows aren’t the only contests worth seeing. The Fine Arts Building and the Floriculture Building both offer a look into the talent of Missourians. Plus, they can give you a break from the heat. The Highway Gardens are always beautiful and can be another place to get a break with plenty of benches and shade. The Agriculture Building can be crowded, but there’s always something interesting, odd, fun or tasty to find in there. I’m amazed each year at some of the random stuff people will buy while at the state fair, but my favorite is the section with all the Missouri-made products. I love buying local, and this is a chance to buy local from across the state.
A few other tips: wear comfy shoes because you’ll be doing a lot of walking, bring some cash so you can buy a $1 bottle of water from the Missouri State Fair Foundation (it goes to a good cause and you’re bound to need some water eventually), get a map if you aren’t familiar with the fairgrounds, and come with a plan but be flexible.
For those concerned about cost, there are coupons in the Souvenir Program, tickets purchased in advance at area retailers are cheaper, and there are admission and carnival promotions each day. There is $5 admission after 5 p.m. Aug. 11-15 or you can participate in Lunch Bunch Aug. 12-15 and get your admission refunded if you only stay in the fairgrounds from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 14 is Sedalia Democrat Day and there will be a coupon on the front page of the paper for $2 off adult admission or help those in need by donating at least two canned goods to the food drive Aug. 13 for $2 off adult admission.
Whether you are a new fairgoer, have been coming for years, or are returning after a hiatus, on behalf of the Sedalia Democrat I offer you all a warm welcome to the State Fair City!