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Missouri State Fair cancels most events, goes ‘back to basics’ after all

After months of questions about whether the show would go on, Missouri’s State Fair has pivoted to a “Youth Livestock Show” only. 

Gov. Mike Parson said in June that the State Fair would continue in some form despite the COVID-19 pandemic, with the exception of concerts in the grandstand. He also said the Governor’s Ham Breakfast would be held

But the fair will be switching to a showcase of the state’s agriculture this year rather than the traditional event, forgoing the Governor’s Ham Breakfast, carnival midway, and all other events not related to youth livestock exhibition, according to a Friday afternoon announcement.

We care deeply about the public health and safety of our fairgoers and our community,” the notice read. “When the original decision to move forward with the Fair was made, the information and numbers were different than they are now. In collaboration with Gov. Parson and the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services it was determined that the best course of action was to work to reduce the number of individuals on the fairgrounds. Best practices for sanitation and public health will still be implemented during the youth livestock show.”

The announcement noted the decision was largely based on priorities of public health and safety and a quality outdoor experience. Vendors and sponsors had been limiting or canceling their involvement in the fair, the announcement said. 

The notice referred to the event as a “back to basics” approach to the State Fair, noting that the original 1901 Fair took the same form. 

“As a farmer myself, the Missouri State Fair is very near and dear to me, ” Parson said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has canceled many events around the world, and we wanted to be sure the Missouri State Fair’s youth shows weren’t one of those. It is truly agriculture’s biggest family reunion, and we are proud to offer youth livestock shows in 2020. Just like a young person’s educational path, we are dedicated to making sure youth in agriculture get the opportunity to have a real-world experience caring for their livestock.”

It was reported in early July that the State Fair had started confirming events that were to be held during the August gathering in Sedalia. Special events, such as the Opening Day parade and ceremony and the Homegrown Singer Contest, were to be featured at the Fair as well as the Governor’s Ham Breakfast.

Concerts, the senior dance, and rodeo had already been canceled for this year’s fair. Rabbit shows had also been canceled due to a highly contagious disease, found in other parts of the U.S., that can be deadly for small mammals. 

Questions about if the State Fair would go on — or what an altered event would look like — have abounded as the state continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. Parson had promised at least “some version” of the fair would occur, noting it has only been canceled one time — during World War II. 

“As an [agriculture] governor, somebody who comes from the farm, I don’t want it to be the second time on my watch that it’s canceled,” Parson told reporters in June. 

Other states, including Nebraska and Indiana, have made similar changes to focus on agricultural events rather than a more traditional Fair. 

The livestock show is scheduled for the State Fair’s original dates of Aug. 13-23.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.