Cattle show at Missouri State Fair

Exhibitors line up cattle at last year’s Missouri State Fair in Sedalia. The 2014 fair kicks off Aug. 7.

SEDALIA — Once again, thousands of Missourians will renew an annual tradition and make their way here for the Missouri State Fair.

Into its second century, the fair has become and remained a treasure of the state’s rural way of life, welcoming people from all over while remaining a deeply agrarian experience.

“We’ve carried on the tradition and heritage of it being an agricultural showcase,” says Tammie Nichols, the fair’s director of marketing. “We have really held fast to ensuring that we have a quality show.”

The 112th Missouri State Fair runs from Aug. 7-17. This year’s theme is “Harvest the Fun.”

In addition to the usual staples, the livestock shows and the grandstand entertainment and the funnel cakes, Nichols says there are some new events and attractions this year.

One of these is the “Thank a Farmer for the Harvest” exhibit in front of the Historic Administration Building for all 11 days of the fair. This display features photos of farm families from each of Missouri’s 114 counties.

It also will include facts about Missouri agriculture and what is grown in the different parts of the state. Nichols says this will reflect Missouri’s ag variety and “help educate people about where their food comes from.”

This year the fair also welcomes the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League tractor pull on Aug. 17 at the grandstand, part of a full slate of grandstand entertainment scheduled for the fair.

This year’s fair also includes new contests for kids on Youth in Agriculture Day, which is Aug. 16.

All kids 12 and younger get into the fair for free that day.

Children 5 and younger get in for free every day.

“We’re always about families,” Nichols says, “but we wanted to do something special for kids.”

These contests include a biggest-tomato contest for ages 3-12, with the top three in weight receiving prizes.

Overall, Nichols says youth participation is key to the fair experience. She says there were 30,000 entries in fair contests last year.

The fair has several other special days offering savings on admission.

The opening day of the fair, Aug. 7, has $2 gate admission, and the opening day parade at 6 p.m. Aug. 10 is Military Appreciation Day. Active military, veterans and delayed-entry recruits with the appropriate I.D. military family members get in for $1.

Aug. 12 is the fourth annual Missouri Farmers Care food drive, and people can save $1 on admission per canned item donated, up to $4.

Aug. 13 is Senior Appreciation Day and features the “Old and Wow” tractor and machinery show from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The show’s “parade of power” is at 2 p.m.

The 2013 fair drew 366,000 visitors, and Nichols expects to draw those kinds of crowds again this year or maybe more.

“We’ve been increasing in attendance,” she says.

The fair also has been reaching out to Missourians who may not be from rural areas but are still interested in growing their own food. The fair will have displays for container gardening and preserving food.

“We’ve been promoting to our urban folks that there’s something for everyone at the fair,” Nichols says.

Of course, the fair has displays and attractions for rural people. Nichols says the location of the Missouri State Fair is great for the event’s original purpose, a showcase of the state’s agriculture.

“We’re in the rural area of Missouri,” she says of Sedalia. “It’s in the center of the state, in a rural community.”