Remembrances of the Missouri State Fair


By Hope Lecchi - [email protected]



The Grandstand on the Missouri State Fairgrounds as it appeared in the 1950s. At one time wooden bleachers extended past the seating in place today.


Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

Sally Rand poses in a publicity photo taken during the 1950’s. Rand, who was from Elkton, danced at the Missouri State Fair from 1951 to 1957. She danced naked behind two large ostrich feathers and a curtain.


Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

Emergency workers come to the aide of a visitor at the Grandstands at the Missouri State Fair in a photo from the collection of Leo Dick. Dick said that all of the emergency workers were always helping each other to make the Fair a safe experience.


Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

A picture of one of the motorcycle racers from the late 1960s shows the wooden side walls on the track. At one time the track itself was wooden. Built in 1923, the old wooden track cost a half a million dollars when it was constructed according to local Fair historian Leo Dick.


Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

The sign that hung at State Fair Grocery. The store was located on 16th Street and was opened in 1925, by Miller Stroup. In 1950, Leo Dick Sr. purchased the store. The Dick family would deliver groceries to the vendors and visitors at the Fair traveling the two blocks to the fairgrounds.


Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

Rick Yeager, one of the owners of Yeagers Cycle, stands with a trophy from a 1965 motorcycle race. The Grandstand track at the State Fair Grounds has been home to a variety of races throughout its history from cars and motorcycles to harness racing and horse racing.


Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

One of the first items Leo Dick can remember receiving as a child from the Missouri State Fair is pictured. The doll was given to Dick and his brothers and sister by a family friend when the children attended the Fair with their parents in the early 1940s. Dick is well known throughout the Fair today as the current owner of Dick’s Corndogs.


Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

State Fair Grocery opened in 1925, purchased by Leo Dick Sr, in 1950, the shop still stands today and is still owned by the family. Leo Dick Jr. recalled delivering groceries from the store at 1520 W. 16th to the Missouri State Fairgrounds as a young boy with his family.


Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

This weekend will see the close of the 114th Missouri State Fair and with it another year of Fair memories.

For some, the images and events seem familiar and unchanging but throughout the Fair’s history, there have been numerous changes and improvements, especially for one Fair mainstay.

Leo Dick has been a fixture at the Missouri State Fair since he first started working in his family’s corndog stand in 1968.

Dick’s affiliation with the Fair predates the corndog stand by several years.

“I remember when my father, Leo Dick Sr., and mother, Emma Dick, first brought me and my brothers and sister to the Fair when we were little,” Dick said last Saturday. “It was really something, the parade used to come down State Fair Boulevard from Main Street and there were all kinds of circus animals.

“Murphy Brothers had elephants and they used them to unload the tents and all the other things from the train cars,” he recalled. You would come through the main gate on 16th Street and there were rows of neon lights on the pillars and then you would walk under the old overpass bridge that was on the grounds and there were flags and colored banners hanging everywhere.”

Dick’s father bought State Fair Grocery, located at 1520 W. 16th St., in 1950 and the family was asked to deliver groceries to many of the vendors and exhibitors to the Fair.

“We had a truck and we went from tent to tent delivering groceries to everyone at the fair,” Dick said. “Man there were some good people back then and there still are, but it was just a different time.

“The campgrounds were new back then and we used to deliver maps so the campers would know where everything was,” he added. “There weren’t many motel rooms so a lot of people would put up signs and offer to rent rooms in their basements or house for the visitors to have a place to stay.”

Dick said everyone worked together to make sure the Fair was a memorable experience for all.

“The people are what made the Fair great, they still are but things seemed a little different back then,” Dick said. “The sheriff and the police and the firemen and the Highway Patrol they were always helping each other out.

“I remember when they would bring the fire trucks to the Grandstand and have them turn on the hoses to wash them down and wash any trash that might be left in the stands,” he said. “You’d see them all out there helping to make the Grandstand as clean as possible because we were one of the only places in the United States that had a race track like we did; people would come from all across the country to come to the races here.”

The Fairgrounds were home to a mile wooden track and throughout the history of the track and its evolution, racing in Sedalia saw some of the biggest names in racing history.

Dick recalled Indy racers Bobby Graham, Al Unser and Mario Andretti racing on the track as well as countless others but even the races were different in years past.

“It used to be that men would actually stand on the track to flag the cars,” Dick said. “They would have to stand really still or else they would get hit but they knew what they were doing.

“The Boy Scouts would flip the numbers so people would know what lap each car was on and people would count the cars as they went by to make sure everyone was on the right lap,” he recalled. “There were a lot of close calls and some accidents but that happens in every sport. You never want to see it but I remember when it happened here.”

Dick witnessed one of the most horrible accidents seen at the racetrack in Sedalia.

“I remember being there the day the car went over the fence and into the crowd killing a person,” Dick said. “There were a lot of people who were hurt and it was just a tragic, tragic accident.”

While there is no way to forget the tragedy of that accident, Dick recalled happier times at the track.

“There used to be a big goldfish pond in the center of the grass in the middle of the racetrack and on really hot days the racers would jump in that pond to cool off after they had finished their race,” he said with a laugh. “It was something to see.

“They used to have all kinds of racing from the cars to motorcycles to the harness races and horse racing,” he said. “There was always something for someone to see and people still remember them, people from years ago still call me to talk about it or they stop by the stand and we talk and talk.”

Dick has other fond memories from the Grandstand.

“We had all the big names in entertainment come here, there wasn’t a person who didn’t want to play at the State Fair back in the day,” Dick said. “One of my favorites has always been Leroy Van Dyke.

“He is a local boy but he never forgot about us,” he added. “He has done so much for the Fair over the years and he is just a dear friend.”

One other Missouri native who could put on a show, according to Dick, was Sally Rand, an exotic dancer from Elkton.

“Sally was something else,” Dick said. “She used to do a fan dance behind a screen with two big ostrich feathers and nothing else.

“You couldn’t see anything because of the curtain, but you thought you could and that was enough,” he added with a laugh. “She was a real lady though, as nice as anyone. She used to come and see us every chance she could.”

The times and people were different years ago, Dick said.

The men would all wear white shirts and ties even to go to the races and the ladies were in dresses and hats often with their white gloves in hand with their pocketbooks.

“On Sundays during the Fair they shut everything down for an hour for church services,” Dick said. “The Protestant service was at the Youth Building, the Lutherans would meet at the Highway Gardens and the Catholics would meet at the Coliseum.

“People would pack a picnic basket and we would eat on blankets under the pine trees on the south side of the grounds or in the Highway Gardens,” he added. “There are so many things we don’t realize that are gone.”

Dick said that although many things have changed at the Fair one thing that has not is the commitment of the organizers to put on an event that appeals to a wide audience each year.

“A lot of hard work goes into this each year,” Dick said. “Things like this don’t happen overnight and that goes for everyone here, especially the maintenance people and the superintendents who keep it running and do a lot of the behind the scenes work to the directors, commissioners and Foundation.

“I went to everything and I love it all, especially the history of it,” Dick added fondly. “I have so many wonderful memories and we need to keep this for others to have as well.”

The Grandstand on the Missouri State Fairgrounds as it appeared in the 1950s. At one time wooden bleachers extended past the seating in place today.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_tsd082016fairhistory1.jpgThe Grandstand on the Missouri State Fairgrounds as it appeared in the 1950s. At one time wooden bleachers extended past the seating in place today. Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

Sally Rand poses in a publicity photo taken during the 1950’s. Rand, who was from Elkton, danced at the Missouri State Fair from 1951 to 1957. She danced naked behind two large ostrich feathers and a curtain.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_tsd082016fairhistory2.jpgSally Rand poses in a publicity photo taken during the 1950’s. Rand, who was from Elkton, danced at the Missouri State Fair from 1951 to 1957. She danced naked behind two large ostrich feathers and a curtain. Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

Emergency workers come to the aide of a visitor at the Grandstands at the Missouri State Fair in a photo from the collection of Leo Dick. Dick said that all of the emergency workers were always helping each other to make the Fair a safe experience.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_tsd082016fairhistory3.jpgEmergency workers come to the aide of a visitor at the Grandstands at the Missouri State Fair in a photo from the collection of Leo Dick. Dick said that all of the emergency workers were always helping each other to make the Fair a safe experience. Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

A picture of one of the motorcycle racers from the late 1960s shows the wooden side walls on the track. At one time the track itself was wooden. Built in 1923, the old wooden track cost a half a million dollars when it was constructed according to local Fair historian Leo Dick.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_tsd082016fairhistory4.jpgA picture of one of the motorcycle racers from the late 1960s shows the wooden side walls on the track. At one time the track itself was wooden. Built in 1923, the old wooden track cost a half a million dollars when it was constructed according to local Fair historian Leo Dick. Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

The sign that hung at State Fair Grocery. The store was located on 16th Street and was opened in 1925, by Miller Stroup. In 1950, Leo Dick Sr. purchased the store. The Dick family would deliver groceries to the vendors and visitors at the Fair traveling the two blocks to the fairgrounds.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_tsd082016fairhistory5.jpgThe sign that hung at State Fair Grocery. The store was located on 16th Street and was opened in 1925, by Miller Stroup. In 1950, Leo Dick Sr. purchased the store. The Dick family would deliver groceries to the vendors and visitors at the Fair traveling the two blocks to the fairgrounds. Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

Rick Yeager, one of the owners of Yeagers Cycle, stands with a trophy from a 1965 motorcycle race. The Grandstand track at the State Fair Grounds has been home to a variety of races throughout its history from cars and motorcycles to harness racing and horse racing.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_tsd082016fairhistory6.jpgRick Yeager, one of the owners of Yeagers Cycle, stands with a trophy from a 1965 motorcycle race. The Grandstand track at the State Fair Grounds has been home to a variety of races throughout its history from cars and motorcycles to harness racing and horse racing. Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

One of the first items Leo Dick can remember receiving as a child from the Missouri State Fair is pictured. The doll was given to Dick and his brothers and sister by a family friend when the children attended the Fair with their parents in the early 1940s. Dick is well known throughout the Fair today as the current owner of Dick’s Corndogs.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_tsd082016fairhistory7.jpgOne of the first items Leo Dick can remember receiving as a child from the Missouri State Fair is pictured. The doll was given to Dick and his brothers and sister by a family friend when the children attended the Fair with their parents in the early 1940s. Dick is well known throughout the Fair today as the current owner of Dick’s Corndogs. Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

State Fair Grocery opened in 1925, purchased by Leo Dick Sr, in 1950, the shop still stands today and is still owned by the family. Leo Dick Jr. recalled delivering groceries from the store at 1520 W. 16th to the Missouri State Fairgrounds as a young boy with his family.
http://sedaliademocrat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_tsd082016fairhistory8.jpgState Fair Grocery opened in 1925, purchased by Leo Dick Sr, in 1950, the shop still stands today and is still owned by the family. Leo Dick Jr. recalled delivering groceries from the store at 1520 W. 16th to the Missouri State Fairgrounds as a young boy with his family. Photos courtesy Leo Dick, Jr.

By Hope Lecchi

[email protected]

Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.

Sedalia Democrat

Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.

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