Each year the Missouri State Fair recognizes the hard work and accomplishments of a group outstanding youth with the Sale of Champions.
It is a way to celebrate the successes that they have had over the past year with their 4-H and FFA livestock projects.
It is also a bittersweet time for many involved, as they must say goodbye to their animals who have become like family to them.
This year another goodbye was said prior to the Sale of Champions, as Billy Ficken was recognized for his contributions and dedication to at the Missouri State Fair.
Ficken has been part of the maintenance staff at the Fair for 25 years.
On Oct. 1, Ficken is retiring due to his health. This year marked the first Fair that he has not been a part of in those 25 years.
“It’s hard to come to the Fair and not be involved in some way,” Ficken said prior to the Sale. “There are a lot of memories here and if my health were better I would never leave.”
Ficken and his crew of 13 are in charge of much of the work that is always done and often taken for granted yearlong at the fairgrounds.
“Billy has obviously given of himself in so many ways,” David Dick, Livestock Superintendent said. “He is the one who spends nights and mornings getting everything set up and making sure it all runs smoothly.”
Dick has known Ficken throughout Ficken’s 25 years at the Fair.
Dick and commented that there was not a time that Ficken was not willing to lend a hand to see the work was done.
“I really think I just did what they asked me,” Ficken said. “I always wanted to make it the best I could for the kids.”
Ficken was in charge of many buildings and event centers at the Fair including the Coliseum, The Donnelly Arena, the Armory, Exhibition Center, and MFA Arena.
“We would do anything from dragging the arenas to setting up tables and chairs and taking out trash,” Ficken said. “We’d clean it up and get it ready for the next event.
“We would work 12 to 16 hours days,” he added. “Whatever we needed to do we would.”
Ficken commented that the people he worked with and for were very important to him.
“My wife and family have gotten me through this,” Ficken said. “That includes my work family and friends. They have been so good to me.
“This, today, really means a lot to me,” Ficken added. “Everyone has been so kind throughout the years.”
Ficken said he planned to return back home to his farm and see what happens with his health.
“I know that I would never leave this place if it weren’t for my health,” Ficken said. “Saying good-bye to all the people here and the kids, that’s the hard part.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484