The Missouri State Fair is a time of fun, friends, smiles and memories, but for many who are familiar with the Fair and it’s workings, this year is one tinged with sadness with the loss earlier in the year of Billy Ficken.
Ficken, who worked for 25 years for the Department of Agriculture at the Missouri State Fairgrounds died in February after a long battle with cancer.
“Billy was a good friend and a tireless worker who was dedicated to the Fair,” David Dick, livestock superintendent for the Fair said. “He always wanted the show rings and the event areas to be the best they could be for the exhibitors and for others.
“He worked on behalf of everyone, every day, year round,” Dick added. “I think he always wanted to make it the best it possibly could be because he always knew what it meant to the kids and how important it was to them.”
Ficken was in charge of many of the buildings and areas on the grounds where FFA and 4-H members could be found showing their livestock including the Coliseum, the Donnelly Arena, the Exhibition Center and the MFA Arena.
Dick said that many on the fairgrounds did not know who had done the work and that was the way Ficken wanted it.
“He never wanted credit for anything he did,” Dick said. “He always just went about his daily work making sure everything was ready.
“Many days he would be here from sunrise to sunset along with his crew making sure it was done,” he added. “A lot of the time he knew what needed to be done and he would have it done before anyone would even ask, he just always knew.”
Dick was a life-long friend of Ficken as was Bill Ellison, assistant beef superintendent who knew Ficken for more 26 years.
“Bill was a heck of a good guy to work with,” Ellison said. “You could ask him anything and he would do it for you or for anybody else.”
In October of last year, Ficken retired from the Fair due to his health concerns.
Last year marked the first Fair in Ficken’s 25 year tenure there that he did not work the grounds..
To honor the legacy of Ficken and his work, several shows and events at this year’s Fair were dedicated to him including the Exceptional Rodeo and the Beef Shows.
Ficken will also have a commemorative bench placed in his honor on the Fair grounds.
“Billy was involved in the community and especially the agricultural community he was a member of the Cattlemen’s Association and the Mid-Missouri Ag Club,” Dick commented. “He and his father farmed all their lives.
“He cared about people and the kids,” he added. “I just think he always knew the importance to others.”
At the Sale of Champions at last year’s Fair, the Democrat interviewed Ficken after he was recognized for his contributions to the Fair at the event.
“I know that I would never leave this place if it weren’t for my health,” he said. “Saying goodbye to all the people here and the kids, that’s the hard part.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.