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Opinion: The Missouri State Fair; A Way of Life

  

Many people might wonder, what is the value of our state fair and all the state fairs across the Midwest?  

The simple answer could be that agriculture is one of this state’s main revenue producers adding around $94 billion each year to our economy.

Another thought might be that the state fair is Missouri’s opportunity to showcase Missouri agriculture and our pride in the American way of life. 

 But, to be honest, it is more than just numbers.  What actual goes on in those barns, in those buildings and in the camp ground that covers over 300 acres we call our Missouri State Fair Grounds?  It amounts to building family values and cultivating lifelong friendships. 

 It’s not about the revenue, but a way of life.  

Some of my fondest memories while I was growing up in Iowa took place in those barns at the local county and state fair. I was involved in 4-H for the better part of my youth life, showing steers all over the Midwest.  My first year at the age of seven, I cried like a baby when we loaded my buddy “Big Red” on that truck but no one had ever sugar coated the fact that it was part of the agricultural process.  

Some of you that know me might find it hard to believe but during my youth, showing my steers was my first priority.  

Each year I missed the first week of football practice because I would be showing at the AKSARBAN Steer Show in Omaha, Nebraska.  

We got a new football coach my junior year and he brought me in to discuss me missing the first week of practice.  After a long talk, I said, “Couch, don’t make me choose or you won’t like my decision.”  In the end, it all worked out. 

The responsibility of raising and showing livestock is immense.  Countless hours are invested in feeding, watering, taming, training, washing, clipping, hugging, loving and sometimes just talking to them.  All for as short as 10-15 minutes in the show ring.  

When you know you have a quality animal, the feeling in your gut is indescribable when you lead or follow your project into the show arena.  The judge takes his/her first look at them and they follow you with their eyes as you line them up. 

I have even been guilty of once explaining to my steer on the way back to the barn how incompetent the judge must have been for placing us second in a class I know we should have won.  

For each of the exhibitors who will be bringing their projects to Sedalia over the 11 day fair, there will be no sleeping in and the well-being of their animal is in their hands.  

These young people are the future of agriculture in our state.  The sense of pride that they feel is only second to the pride their parents feel as they watch their children skillfully display the end result of months’ of hard work.  

Responsibility, dependability, respect, compassion, work ethic, family, GOD, love of county, respect for the flag and friendship (just to name a few things) are taught by example each year in those barns and buildings.  

Competitive, you better believe it, but I have yet to see an exhibitor walk their animal by a fellow exhibitor that was having trouble while in the show ring without stopping to try to lend a hand.

 One of the first things I can remember my dad saying to me was that no one owes you anything and if you want to be successful, you have to work harder, work smarter and work longer than the next guy.

Put one of these kids exhibiting at the fair to work in any occupation and they will enter the front door looking for things to do, they won’t be watching the clock and they will not quit until the job is completed. 

There are many young people that display their talents every day.  But during fair week, a very specific, special group of young people are working toward a future that will keep the rest of us fed.  It is arguably one of the most important jobs on earth.  

Although the games, rides and specialty foods that come along with the Missouri State Fair experience are fun, the agricultural aspect to this annual event is the centerpiece of the institution.  

 Author Rudy Taylor wrote an article called ‘‘’Just’ a farm kid is a prospect extraordinaire.”  The article was printed in the Kansas Montgomery County Chronicle on February 21, 2013 and I hope that you will find the time to read it.  

Living on a farm and showing livestock will create a resume all of its own.  At a time when our country’s disparity needs rural Missouri values, a work ethic and some integrity, you only need to visit one the barns on show day and what you will witness will leave a lifelong impression.