In a little more than a week, thousands of visitors will arrive in Sedalia for the Missouri State Fair.
Competitions for the 2016 Fair began July 28 with the horse competitions. One other event that is hosted before the official start date of Aug. 11 is perhaps one of the most important to the continuation of the legacy and in many ways future of the event.
The Missouri State Fair Foundation will host the Farm to Table Dinner and Auction, which is the largest stand-alone fundraiser for the State Fair.
“I think people don’t realize at times the importance of the Fair to our history and heritage,” Wendy Faulconer, executive director of the Missouri State Fair Foundation, said. “The primary purpose of both the Fair and the Foundation is to promote agriculture and the economic importance of the industry to our state but also it’s to celebrate the family traditions that are developed as a part of that experience.
“Since the Fair’s beginning in 1899 and for 117 years we have been providing families to come together and build those memories,” she added. “Now we need to work toward ensuring that those opportunities are there for future generations to come.”
The State Fairgrounds are home to 64 buildings and structures that are on the historical register and several of them are in need of attention.
“Sometimes I think it is easier to raise funds for the big, new projects, but there are historic structures that are just as important,” Falconer said. “There are two to three really important projects that are critical to the Fair and their continuation.
“We have to address these foundational issues on some of the historic buildings if we want to preserve and use these facilities for the next 100 years,” she added. “We are looking at a tuck-pointing renovation project on the horse and cattle barns and the Womans Building is also one where we are planning to focus our efforts.”
Faulconer described the work of the Foundation as a “staggering feat” that could not be accomplished without the help of the Foundation members, volunteers and the Fair itself.
“We have such a great partnership with the Fair,” Faulconer said. “They do a great deal of the maintenance and labor on the grounds but we also rely on our volunteers to make this all possible.
“The Fairgrounds are in use year-round and not just for the 10 days the fair is hosted in August,” she added. “I don’t think that people realize just how much the grounds are in use or that the General Assembly does not allocate any general revenue funds for the Fairgrounds.”
It is because of the lack of a set appropriation from the State that events like the Farm to Table Dinner are so important to the continuation and success of the fairgrounds.
“We currently have about 250 members in the foundation from across the state,” Faulconer said. “Many of them are farm families who realize the importance of agriculture in the state.
“They see this as a way to contribute to the legacy and ongoing projects that we are doing,” she added. “The dinner is open to anyone and they do not have to be a member of the Foundation to attend. It’s really a gathering of people who care about agriculture in the state.”
Guests at the event will have the opportunity to dine on a meal featuring some of the best agricultural products from Missouri’s farms, but will also have the opportunity to bid on numerous items at the auction.
Some of those items to be auctioned include a Bass Pro Legends of Golf tournament package, VIP passes to Royals and University of Missouri sporting events, a stagecoach ride during the Missouri State Fair Parade, and dinner and dining packages including one to Catalpa in Arrow Rock, which was recently rated as Missouri’s No. 1 restaurant.
“Each year the participation at the dinner increases,” Faulconer said. “It is a way for families and individuals to come together before the Fair begins the following day.
“We still have some tickets available and we hope to have a large crowd because this is a way that individuals can support the mission of the Foundation in supporting our agriculture heritage and ensuring that those possibilities exist for the future.”
The Cultivating the Future, Farm to Table Dinner and Auction will be hosted at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 10 at the Mohler Assembly Hall on the Missouri State Fairgrounds.
Individual tickets are $75 and are available through the Missouri State Fair Foundation at www.mostatefairfoundation.net.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.