The good people of Sedville seem to have mixed feelings about the Missouri State Fair. On one hand, it’s good for the town in a financial sense. Many locals depend on the fair for a quick summer cash infusion. Being the State Fair City is good for the reputation of the town in general and in theory Fair visitors occasionally visit other parts of Sedalia that could use the traffic.
But there are drawbacks, too. Driving around town becomes more of a chore, especially around the Fairgrounds. Plagues of bugs descend upon the city. We’ve got to deal with grounds covered in garbage and bio hazard hay. The sheer amounts of garbage that we make on the Fairgrounds would probably shock you and convince you that it shouldn’t happen again just for the good of the planet. The Fair is full of green recycling bins but people abuse them. Just this year I saw a woman stick her half-eaten corn dog in an already overflowing recycling bin. There wasn’t much room, but she made just enough room for that. No matter what you think of the average Fair corn dog you can probably figure out that it doesn’t have a whole lot of plastic content.
But it seems the local Fair detractors are usually more vocal about their opinions than local Fair fans. Based on how much they complain I’d swear that these people were literally being tortured by visiting tourists for fun. I can understand hating the Fair after taking a couple of shifts at the Old Fashioned Torture Booth. Death by a thousand sharpened corn dog sticks, ticket paper cuts all over the skin, and drowning in plastic cups with just a little beer in the bottom – seething hatred of the Fair is all too common even among Sedalians.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love the Fair. Next summer will be my 10th season covering it.
But there’s an idea that I’ve seen people express over and over again throughout the years, recently discussed by my friend Brian Pettis: the idea that Sedalia/Pettis County residents should get some sort of resident discount for the Fair because they are the people who are forced to live around it each year.
And I agree with that sentiment. Not because the Fair is excessively annoying, torturous, or draining but because it’s just the sort of thing that permanent parks usually do for the locals. Familiarity breeds contempt, and steps should occasionally be taken to combat that.
Even Walt Disney World and Universal Studios offer Florida resident discounts and Disney parks are the gold standard of overcharging people for things. Zoos, hotels, festivals and restaurants all over the country do, too. It seems to me that this is just a common courtesy and it might help dispel some of the negative thoughts that some locals have about their Missouri State Fair.
Maybe there should be a day where locals get in free. Maybe there should be a permanent discount on all admission tickets and maybe even selected vendors for Sedalians and Pettis County residents. Let’s say that local admission is $6 or something – whatever the discount the Fair would probably see an increase in local attendance. Sure, you lose a little money on each admission but I think you make up for it with a little extra attendance, and a more positive view of the Fair from the locals in general.
But if the good people of the Fair choose one day to do that for us, then it would only be right that we work to support the Missouri State Fair Foundation year round. Maintaining the grounds isn’t easy or cheap, especially after people have been living it up for 11 straight days. Don’t be afraid to buy an extra water from the white gazebos around the grounds during the Fair next year.
And don’t even start with all the “I’m sooo glad the Fair is over” stuff. Even though there are some negative consequences that come out of the Fair I know it is ultimately a positive thing for the community and it makes us look bad to wish it away. Like it or not, it’s not going anywhere.
Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.