Dean and Robyn Sayre of Purdin, Missouri, erect a canopy between campers. Dean, 41, said he has attended the fair for 39 consecutive years and represents the fourth generation of his family attending the Missouri State Fair.
Joe Kendrick of Palmyra, Missouri, blocks the tires on his camper with wood planks. Kendrick arrived Friday and said he was surprised at how many campers had already claimed a site.
At the Missouri State Fair, early birds are happy campers. The fair’s public campgrounds opened Thursday, and by Friday afternoon rows of vehicles, tents and RVs lined the 60-acre facility. In years past, the campgrounds opened the Sunday prior to the State Fair’s start Thursday. For many the extra three days simply meant more camping. More than 600 sites were claimed on Thursday.
Campers like Joe Kendrick of Palmyra, Missouri, were still filing in and pitching tents Friday afternoon.
“I guess we kind of got caught off-guard this time, we didn’t realize they were opening a week before,” Kendrick said. “We just didn’t fathom that there would be this many campers out here already.”
Missouri State Fair Director Mark Wolfe said he recognized that camping, already popular at the fair, has changed over the years. The State Fair runs from Aug. 13-Aug. 23.
“For a lot of these folks this is their mid-to-late summer vacation,” Wolfe said. “Over the last five years we’ve really seen a shift in that and folks are staying the whole time. Especially towards the back (of the campgrounds), they start setting up in circles.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie and friends, and it has become a big tradition over time.”
Dean Sayre, and his group of eight neighbors, traveled from Purdin, Missouri, took a day off of work and traveled a day earlier than planned to claim a site. He represents the fourth generation of fairgoers in his family.
“I’m 41 years old now, and I’ve been coming here for 39 straight years,” Sayre said. “My brother was born in 1981, and celebrated his first birthday here.”
Some campers, like Bob Bowen of Nevada, Missouri, said it’s a “shame” that those arriving late will be relegated to worse campsites — ones with less powerful amp and sewer outlets. Wolfe said he understands.
“I guess having more people wanting to camp than you have room for is a good problem to have,” Wolfe said. “I certainly understand, that’s why we do it the way we do. We would love to have more land for more campsites. The funds are hard to come by.”
Bowen sat outside his RV drinking a Sprite. There’s little else for early bird campers to worry about once their site is situated. He and Arlene Bowen said they might not even go to the fair more than once. “I just like to camp,” Arlene said.