Illinois. Iowa. Nebraska. Kansas. Oklahoma. Tennessee. Kentucky. Today, Missouri joined a long list of fairs to cancel this year’s event. However, the youth livestock exhibitions will go on.
When COVID-19 hit the U.S., state fair directors from across the country started meeting virtually. Missouri State Fair director Mark Wolfe listened as month after month, call after call, states began to cancel events. For some, it was the rising number of coronavirus cases in their state pushing them to “not risk” the potential of an outbreak, he explains. For others, it became a financial decision. “They found if they would open, they would lose so much money that it would jeopardize future fairs,” he says.
As for the Missouri State Fair, its fate was in the hands of the highest elected official in the state, Gov. Mike Parson. In mid-June, Parson announced the fair would go on with modifications, but by July 17 as coronavirus numbers increased across the state, the fair was canceled.
Opening Day Ceremony, Governor’s Ham Breakfast, carnival midway and all other non-youth livestock related events are canceled. The fair will be issuing applicable refunds.
Only the Youth Livestock Shows will continue on-site. Exhibitor camping will still be available through the event. All current reservations will be honored.
Financial losses possible
Nationwide, many state fairs across the U.S. were canceled or postponed because they would not make money, and in some cases, would dip into savings or, worse, turn a deficit. Wolfe points out that the Missouri State Fair would’ve likely taken a financial hit due to COVID-19.
A huge attendance draw in year’s past has been the concerts. However, this year these events were canceled, and it impacts revenue.
Reservations in the campgrounds have also fallen off. “We have had 100 campers cancel already,” Wolfe says. “I look for more to follow if the [coronavirus] numbers don’t improve.”
In the wake of COVID-19 is the tough economic times felt up and down Main Street, along with rural America. Sponsorships of events and even livestock shows are down or in some cases have disappeared altogether. One example is the cancellation of the youth sheep fitting contest.
Still, Wolfe knows the state fair is valuable to the agriculture community.
More than money
Youth in agriculture worked all year on projects — whether to be exhibited in the livestock arenas, 4-H Building or FFA Building. Wolfe and his staff are committed to providing a place for young people to compete.
“The Missouri State Fair is the one place they go each year,” he adds. “For many of us, seeing our youth livestock exhibitors caring for their animals, preparing them for show and then handling them in the show ring is among the best parts of the fair each year. It is important to the kids and their parents.”