The 114th Missouri State Fair officially began Thursday with reflections of the past and the promise of the future.
Gov. Jay Nixon, who spoke in his final Opening Day ceremony as governor, described the Fair as a priceless legacy that is worth protecting for all Missourians.
“The State Fair is a tradition that honors the pioneer heritage of the past but is always looking to the future,” Nixon told the audience assembled in front of the Agriculture Building on the fairgrounds. “I want to repeat what Director (Mark) Wolfe said that we had 4,000 FFA and 4-H members who exhibited more than 30,000 entries at the fair last year.
“These students value hard work and they appreciate the diversity of others,” he added. “No matter if they win or lose they give their all to their livestock and the projects that they exhibit.”
When asked after the ceremony if he was sad that this would be his last Fair as governor, he replied “no,” stating he felt happiness knowing the future of agriculture rests in the hands of the young people who continue to want to be a part of agriculture throughout the state.
Nixon commented that agriculture was the backbone and powerhouse of the state’s economy and to prove his point he offered the following numbers.
“Missouri has nearly 100,000 farms and 28.3 million acres of farmland,” Nixon stated. “Agriculture directly employs more than a quarter of a million people in the state and each year producers from our state sell more than $12 billion in agricultural products outside Missouri and around the globe.”
Director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture Richard Fordyce also commented on the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy in his remarks.
“Second place isn’t even close and it’s because of the people involved in farming and ranching today,” Fordyce said. “The next generation is the key to agriculture and that’s why we are here, to provide a venue for young people to demonstrate their leadership for the future.”
“While other fairs have become venues for concerts, our Fair has stayed true to our agricultural roots and will continue to do that,” Fordyce added to the applause of the audience.
Wolfe too received applause as he spoke of the improvements and growth of the fair in recent years.
“We feel youth represent our future and the success of the Missouri State Fair and Missouri’s agricultural industry,” Wolfe said. “Without a doubt you are going to be impressed by the remarkable representation of youth who represent nearly every county in the state.
“I’m proud to say that the Missouri State Fair continues to be recognized as one of the best in the industry,” he added. “We have been voted No. 1 for our ag exhibits last year and received international recognition for our ‘Let’s Talk Livestock’ program.”
Wolfe remarked upon the many improvements made to the fairgrounds during the last year including those to the sheep and swine buildings and the Children’s Barnyard, which were done in cooperation with the Missouri State Fair Foundation and though the donations of contributors and those who attend the Fair annually.
After the opening ceremony, the governor was asked by the Democrat to reflect on his favorite memories of the Fair from his three decades as a state elected official.
“There are a couple that truly stand out,” Nixon replied without hesitation. “One is the tradition of seeing the youth of the state who have worked hard for generations to compete in the livestock and youth exhibits.
“The management of the Fair has always been very proactive and good stewards of the Fair, we have come through the storms safe and the core of the Fair is the strongest that it has ever been,” he added. “It’s because we didn’t forget the roots of the Fair that are founded in our youth and agriculture.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.