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Serving: MO

Fairs are family tradition in rural America

Photos by Mindy Ward kids competing in the cattle show at the Missouri State Fair
SHAKE IT OUT: Getting that judge’s hand clasp is the culmination of perhaps more than a year’s worth of work on a beef cattle project for ag kids. It shows their time and effort paid off with a top-of-class placing. It is time to sit on the sidelines at the Missouri State Fair and encourage our youth.
Ag Matters: Attend a county fair or the Missouri State Fair to support youth.

The calendar is about to turn over to July. But for many families in Missouri, these next two months are simply known as fair season.

Young people across Missouri are putting the last stitches in clothing projects, and taking photographs of butterflies and beautiful wildflowers, all with hopes of taking home a blue ribbon from their county fair. Others are washing show calves daily and exercising pigs, goats and lambs in the front yard while Mom serves as the practice judge.

These are fun times. My children are now in their 20s and past their prime show years. I have many happy memories of decorating cakes, woodworking projects and livestock shows with both of them.

Like you, we did these things as a family. The prep work of gathering materials for projects. Selecting steers and heifers our kids then broke to halter, with a little help from Dad. 4-H meetings, where our kids first practiced public speaking and leadership skills.

All of those things culminate in county fair week, which is an event in rural America. There is nothing like the pride that overflows from young people when they bring an animal into the show ring or enter a project into the 4-H building that took hours to create.

There is also nothing like the bleachers filled with parents and grandparents on show night and community members at the livestock auction. The community support of every county fair is crucial.

State fair offers fun

Scores of county fairs are scheduled in July, and the majority of projects — animal or otherwise — end there. However, the Missouri State Fair beckons many Missouri families next month.

Our son showed cattle at the Missouri State Fair for several years, so we packed up equipment, feed and show clothes just like so many of you and made the annual pilgrimage to Sedalia.

flower show at the Missouri State Fair

The Missouri State Fair is not just for kids and livestock. There is a flower show in the Horticulture Building every year.

“Buckets of Fun” is the theme for the 2022 Missouri State Fair, scheduled Aug. 11-21. Livestock shows and corn dogs are the first things most people think about when it comes to the state fair. Those are wonderful traditions, and I definitely look forward to those same things every year. I also encourage you to find the hidden gems in Sedalia.

Did you know there is a flower show in the Horticulture Building? Or a youth canning category in the Home Economics Building? Check out the jumping mule show in the Mathewson Center, where “Radar” is a 15-time winner and set to retire his jumping shoes after this year’s fair.

Youth-driven fair displays

Support kids from your county, and every Missouri county, with a walk through the 4-H Building to look at their projects. The best of the best from each county fair earn the chance at a spot in Sedalia. Look up to the ceiling to see the individual county flags, updated in 2021 to celebrate Missouri’s bicentennial, representing the agriculture heritage in all 114 counties.

These competitions, exhibitors and livestock are much more than the county fair and the state fair. It is important we recognize the part they play in keeping our rural communities alive. 4-H and FFA livestock exhibitors buy feed at their local feed stores and equipment at the farm supply stores. They use the local veterinarian to help keep their show animals healthy.

Bringing the next generation home to the family farm is so important to me, both as Missouri director of agriculture and as a farm parent. Love for this lifestyle and this industry is most often planted at home. It is definitely fostered and nurtured through 4-H, FFA, the county fair and the Missouri State Fair.

It’s fair season! Don’t miss the chance to support these young people and their families. I wouldn’t trade those days for anything.

Chinn is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and a hog producer from Clarence, Mo.

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