Sunday, August 22, 2010

Missouri State Fair - growing my own great memories

I've spent the last week at the 108th Annual Missouri State Fair in Sedalia, Missouri. It was a lovely week. I was there doing science outreach, participating in the 4 Days of Hands-on Science Fun which included a Street Science Fair, Show Me Robotics Showcase & Competition, and Aerospace Fun Day. Plus, there were the agricultural exhibits and showcases. I loved it all. it really reminded me of my agricultural roots.

When I was younger, I would go to the Mid-South Fair and Libertyland housed on the Fairgrounds in Memphis, Tennessee. I loved it: the rides, the games, the food. Being a city kid, I thought that's what the fair was all about. It wasn't until college - majoring in Animal Science that I came to know that wasn't what the Fair was about at all.  Fairs are about the agriculture and home economics achievements of everyday folk - the people who grind and work to make their daily lives out of hard work and simple materials. It was eye-opening to learn not only about the science of raising livestock, growing crops, and the economics of practical living, using all resources adequately and respectfully, as well as the creativity and artsmanship of both agriculture and home economic endeavors. I had a new appreciation of fairs that continues today.

So, as I spent time at the Missouri State Fair, I was more excited about the animal exhibits than the rides at the mid-way. But don't get me wrong. I still had all of my fair favorites: corn dogs, funnel cake, lemonade,turkey leg, roasted corn, plus fried green tomatoes. Nom, nom, nom.

I also checked out the Home Ec. exhibits as well. You can tell the first placed pies....bigger slices cut out. lol.
It's a shame all of those lovely treats were only enjoyed by the judges. They stay on display throughout the fair and then discarded. I love sweets too much to commit that kind of abuse.

Check out more photos from the Missouri State fair at my Facebook Fan Page: Missouri State Fair 2010 Photo album.

And as I looked around, I realized that State Fairs are perfect opportunities for people to reconnect with their communities on a regional scale and appreciate what it has to offer.  State fairs are ideal day trip destinations for the entire family - from the young kiddies, the teens, young adults, and grand parents. Load the car up and take everyone out for a great time. I met one family that comes to the fair every year. They camp out on the nearby campground and they pall around all weekend. Isn't that lovely (and affordable)? Now, that's how fond childhood memories are made.

The only thing I thought the fair was missing was diversity. People came from all over the state, but there was very, very little participation from St. Louis and Kansas City - the state's major metropolitan areas. It's a two-way street no doubt, but I can't recall a single piece of advertisement within the St. Louis Metro core. For the most part, fairs are rural events, but considering that every heritage has a rural and agricultural history (not to mention the fact that everybody eats), I think it's a shame that State Fair planners haven't found ways to engage multiple demographics, especially since many regional fairs are struggling. I can imagine a whole list of ways to attract urbanites to the State Fairs that wouldn't involve an overhaul of marketing efforts. And with the rise of people's interests in farmers markets, urban gardening, and local food, I think the urban markets are ripe for plucking and attending State Fairs. So, if any fair planners are serious about increasing reach in urban areas, then feel free to contact me. I am more than happy to offer my consultation services to your operation.

In the comments section, please feel free to share your State Fair Memories, too. Check out OutdoorAfro's blog post about State Fair memories. It's like she's in my head or something.


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