Last week my wife and I attended our first Missouri State Fair. Saturday was designated as Kennett Day at the fair and was capped off by a concert from our own Sheryl Crow (sorry Wendell and Bernice, but we get to claim at least a small part of her). More on that later.
There were, by an actual count of someone, 80 people from Kennett on hand. That does not count folks like Kennett native John Watson and his family who now live in Jefferson City and came by the reception prior to the concert. Nor did that count former Kennett resident and Masterson Elementary principal Elsie Heller who attended the concert. I'm not real sure it included all the members of the David Henderson family because some of them were busy working the concession stand/booth/trailer for Southern Sno.
Several legislators stopped by in addition to Rep. Tom Todd from this area who was there with his wife, Pat. There were also representatives from other areas of state government including the Department of Agriculture and Economic Development.
I visited with Missouri Secretary of Agriculture Jon Hagler both days and suspect he was there for most of the fair's 12-day run.
That seems appropriate because the state fair is all about agriculture. Sure, there were other exhibits dealing with fine arts for example, but it is very much a celebration of agriculture and given ag's place in the state's economy and history the recognition is deserved.
We arrived there in time to see Darius Rucker in concert on Friday evening. Rucker is an artist becoming recognized for his talents, and they are impressive, as a solo act. Many folks recall him as the lead singer for the rock group, Hootie and the Blowfish. The success of that group is well known and helped launch his solo career. To Missouri's credit I did not hear one person yell out, "Hootie" during his abbreviated concert.
Rucker's concert was cut too short by a thunderstorm complete with lightning and hours-long rain. Remember what those are like? We looked at the radar the next morning and it looked like the Bootheel might have gotten at least a little bit of what blew through the western part of the state. We should have known better.
Saturday afternoon we met up with Lanny and Lynne Geary. Lanny was a regular visitor to the fair in his youth having grown up not far from Sedalia.
We toured the several of the livestock barns, particularly the cow and bull barns. One class of bulls was getting ready to show and we saw the animals' owners preparing them for the center ring. One fellow had a pair of clippers out trimming the back of his bull's coat that already looked perfectly groomed to me. It occurred to me that Ron Harris doesn't take as much time with my head as this fellow was doing with his bull. I realize the bull has more hair than I do, but still, it's a bull. I was gonna ask the bull owner if he cut hair for men as well, figuring he might not live too far away, but he was pretty focused on his bull.
We stopped by the Southern Sno booth and ran into the Steve Crow family. I imagine the youngsters thought it was pretty neat to travel six hours away from home and still be able to get a Southern Sno treat just like they were back in Kennett.
David wasn't working that afternoon. However, in fairness to him I was told he had been working every day during the fair and had been in that morning getting things set up for the day. He left a little early to rest up and get ready for the concert that night.
Chamber exec Jan McElwrath had things pretty well organized for the reception and concert. There was a nice big Kennett, Missouri banner with a photo of Sheryl's new album cover hanging on the fence at the reception. I think another half-dozen banners were up inside the grandstand where the concert was held.
I've been to Sheryl's local concert and the concert she held in Cape years ago to benefit scholarships at the Southeast Missouri State University center here. However, this was the first full-blown Crow concert I had attended.
She put on a show. I will have to admit that when she first came on stage I wasn't quite sure who that was walking out there. This gal looked to be about six foot tall and we all know Sheryl is a petite woman. Of course as soon as she spoke I knew it was her and later the camera, showing live video on two large screens to either side of the stage, had a close-up of her feet.
The girl had on high heels that would have made a mountain goat dizzy. However, from the way she danced and was up and down the risers for the next two hours she might as well have been wearing tennis shoes. Early on she gave a shout-out to the home folks and made us all feel welcome and special.
It was while taking down one of the banners after the concert the Elsie came up to say hello. She was there with several of her friends. Elsie looked well and said she is doing well, enjoying her retirement.
With several others, we stayed at the historic Hotel Bothwell in downtown Sedalia. It's an older hotel but maintained and updated, as much as possible without ruining any of the charm. The hotel sits on the courtsquare much like Kennett. The downtown district is undergoing a major renovation itself. Including a building that once home to a medical practice of an uncle of Lanny's.
Your state fair is an interesting place to visit and even though it's on the other side of the state it is well worth the trip.
Bud Hunt is publisher of the Daily Dunklin Democrat, Daily Statesman, Delta News-Citizen, Missourian-News and North Stoddard Countian.