A City Girl's Guide to the Missouri State Fair
This weekend, our family took a trip to Sedalia (for us 90 min. drive) to the Missouri State Fair held annually in mid-August (through Aug. 21 this year). If you grew up reading "Charlotte's Web" you'll relate quickly to the sites and competitions just as described in the book where you'll see prize winning animals, fruits and vegetables, floral arrangements, baked goods, canned goods, and have the chance to feast on fair foods and ride rides. But the fair is more than that. So how should you plan to take a city family to a "country" state fair? These are some tips to plan your day of family fun at the fair!
General Tips/ What to Bring & What to Wear:
- Check the Admissions & Discounts Page for the best deals before you go. Parking is FREE, but you may upgrade to "VIP / Close parking" for $5.
- The earlier you get there, the less crowded it is. We were thrilled that the crowds weren't bad on Saturday at all, and I expect it to be even better during the week.
- You may bring coolers into the fair (no alcohol). I definitely recommend bringing bottled water (though you may purchase it for $1/bottle if you forget), and consider bringing a few snacks as well (keeping in mind many fair foods are fried or sugary, some healthy treats help).
- Hand sanitizer (also offered throughout, but handy to have with you) and wipes for little ones.
- Cash for concessions.
- Stroller for young children.
- Wear comfortable clothes (it is likely to be hot - check the weather before you go- and most of the event is outside, though you'll have many air conditioned building breaks) and walking shoes.Tip: If you walk through any of the animal barns, watch your step closely. While every effort is made to keep the fair clean, and it was as clean as I could ever hope, there are many animals walking the same path you're walking. Close toed shoes are best (those of us wearing flip-flops had DIRTY feet at the end of the day).
- Consider a change of clothes for later in the day.
Unique FREE things to See and Where to Find Them:
- Cow "Thinker" made out of 600lbs of Butter (picture to the right) in the Gerken Dairy Center (#6 on the map, on the North Side, just south of the Dairy Barns and West of the Petting Zoo), where you may also purchase delicious ice cream treats in the air conditioned restaurant.
- Hedrick's Racing Pig Show (#7 on the map, on the North Side, just west of the Gerken Dairy Center). The races are offered many times each day and each race lasts about 2 minutes (they do 4 races per show). Cheering for your favorite pig (each section of the audience is assigned a pig to cheer for) is great fun for the kids and sponsors give out free helium balloons. The pigs are given cute names and descriptions, often paying homage to celebrities. We saw Brittany Squeals, Lindsay LoHam, Brad Pigg, and others.
- Otto the Talking Car teaching children about safety from the Missouri Highway Department (#41 on the map, in the MoDot Highway Gardens on the South side of the fair). This display is outside, kids will have a chance to talk to Otto and take a picture.
- U.S. Navy Flight Simulator for teens and adults and Monsanto Bus for kids (#11 on the map, the Show Me Tent just south of the Coliseum). The Navy's simulator is a film and ride. The Monsanto Bus offered hands-on science for little ones, the favorite being the "cave" young children can explore with a "jungle slide." The area also offers exhibits changing throughout the week.
- You'll also see farm machinery, unique animals, unique produce, and many unusual exhibits (more on that later) throughout the fair.
Best FREE Entertainment:TIP: Read the Daily Schedule before you go to plan your day.
- Anastasini Circus (#49 on the map, just East of the Midway entrance). The one-ring circus is held under a Big Top Circus Tent (pictured) and lasts about 50 minutes. The show includes a miniature pony act, dog act, juggling, high wire, acrobatics, clown, fire baton twirling, and more. This is great fun with kids! Bring your bottled water into the show... it does get hot under the tent. Arrive 10-15 minutes before the show to get a seat.
- Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show (#33 on the map, on the South side of the map, just North of the Children's Barnyard). You can preview the act on YouTube. The show features log rolling, chainsaw carving, and more. Note that the show is outside and you'll sit on bleachers with limited shade. It is also one of the most popular attractions at the fair, so you'll want to arrive early to secure a seat and choose timing that works best for you (and keep sunshine in mind).
- Ronald McDonald Magic Show and other entertainment on the Kids' Stage (#31 on the map, on the South side, just north of the Paul Bunyan show). These shows are also outside.
- Competitions in the Mathewson Exhibition Center (#51 on the map, on the West side just north of the Midway). Read a full schedule for the Mathewson Exhibition Center here. The competitions change daily, we watched mule competitions, but later in the week you may see dog shows, horse shows, cowboy competitions and more.
- Chainsaw Sculpting (#43 on the map, South of the Machinery Area), watch as artisans create sculptures from logs using just a chainsaw!
- You can enjoy a "sit-down" meal at the Pork Place (#20 on the map), the Beef House (#28 on the map), or other restaurants offering burgers, sandwiches, fried chicken and more. The restaurants are popular and lines begin to form at lunch time. Get there early if you can. The food is terrific but costs more than the concessions.
- Concessions are offered throughout, with most located on Murphy Brothers Blvd, Missouri St., and Maple St. You'll find typical fair foods: Funnel Cakes, Carmel Apples, Nachos, Cinnamon Rolls, Snow Cones, Gyros, Burgers, Cider Slushies, Pineapple Whip, Ice Cream, and more. Fresh Squeezed Lemonade is offered at MANY booths and it's worth buying a large with the option of a discounted refill. Corn Dogs are one of the most popular items at the fair, but the VERY BEST are Hand-Dipped Corn Dogs.... watch for the yellow stand with giant yellow flags and signs and the words "Hand-dipped" above Corn Dog (pictured to the right) - the price is the same as the other dogs, but they win the taste test hands-down!
- Unique foods we found included: Fried Oreos (delicious - a donut-like dough surrounds the fried oreo), Fried Coco-Cola and Fried Green Tomatoes (near the Lumberjack Show).
Best for Young Children:
- Hedrick's Petting Zoo (#3 on the map, on the north side just East of the Dairy Barns). You'll see a kangaroo, zebu, zebra, goats, emu and more. The petting zoo is free but you may purchase animal feed for $1/small, $5/large.
- Animal Rides: Camel Rides and Pony Rides are offered (near the Petting Zoo and Children's Barnyard respectively at $5/ride).
- Family Fun Center (#21 on the map, East of the Midway). This area offers indoor air-conditioned play for little children. They'll enjoy little tikes play things and activities for a place to rest a bit and cool off. You'll also find changing stations and clean restrooms (indoor restrooms are available throughout the fair in the various buildings).
- Children's Barnyard (#39 on the map, Southeast corner). The children's barnyard is a great place to see farm animals, the most interesting being the "popcorn chicken" where kids watch baby chicks hatch from eggs.
- Animals Galore! The buildings are all open for viewing a variety of animals as their owners care for them and prepare them for competition. Throughout the grounds you'll find the Dairy Barns (my girls' favorite), the Horse Barns (a little harder to see as the horses/mules are all in stalls, so you'll have to lift children for a view), Swine Barn, Sheep Pavilion, Poultry & Rabbits (chickens can be really beautiful when you look at them... but noisy!), and Cattle Barns. Tip: these are the areas where you'll most need to watch where you step!
- Ninjago LEGO Exhibit (on Maple St. North of the Circus). If you have a LEGO fan in the family, this exhibit shows a short LEGO cartoon introducing Ninjago LEGOs and the kids compete with Ninja LEGOs (like a top) in a Japanese inspired contest.
- There are many Exhibit Buildings throughout. You will see vendors, exhibitors in various categories, and displays including: quilts, jams, produce, farm equipment and machinery, agricultural vendors, energy efficiency, fine arts, and more. Explore a bit and you'll discover your own family favorites. The top pick for my girls was the giant running water faucet without a pipe attached (Varied Industries Building #34 in the southeast side). Many vendors give out samples or handouts (stickers, coloring books, fans) for children. Many buildings also include activities for children where they may create a craft project or experiment (for us that included: small wooden glider planes, artwork for the wall of art in the fine arts building, painting gourds, and more).
- The Midway: We opted not to ride rides on the Midway, but for fair fans who enjoy a carnival you'll find a roller coaster, ferris wheel, carousel, and MUCH MORE! See the Carnival Deals Page for the best bargains to enjoy over 35 rides! New to the 2011 Missouri State Fair Carnival: RC 48 Roller Coaster, a 7 Truck Super Spectacular Piece, Fireball and Twister! A full list of attractions and height requirements is here.
- Concerts & Shows: There are many more concerts (many big artists) and shows (Monster Trucks, Rodeos, Horse Shows), and more! See the Missouri State Fair Website for a complete schedule and ticket prices for these shows.
- Eating in Sedalia AFTER the Fair: Consider eating in Sedalia before heading home. A few choices include: Kehde's Barbeque (20th & Limit) where you'll eat Bar-B-Q in a real "Katy Flyer" Train Dining Car. Colton's Steakhouse (4101 West Broadway Boulevard) with a coupon in the Fair Map provided at the entrance. My children loved shelling and eating the peanuts before their meal (note that peanuts are EVERYWHERE in this restaurant if you have allergies). Another fun "after fair meal" is a stop at the Wheel Inn Drive-In (1800 W Broadway Blvd), famous for the "Gooberburger" a hamburger topped in peanut butter! The Gooberburger is also served at Eddie's Drive-In (115 W. Broadway). Other options where you won't have to be concerned about peanuts include: Applebee's (3320 W Broadway Blvd), Country Kitchen (2001 S. Limit), and many more options on Broadway before you head back home!
Finally, our Favorite Sedalia Attraction:
If you have time to see Sedalia while you're there (perhaps you're making a weekend of the Fair), the Bothwell Lodge Historic Site (19349 Bothwell State Park Road. Sedalia, MO. 660.827.0510) is one of the most interesting home tours I've ever experienced (and giving guided tours of a historic home was one of my former careers). The home is open for tours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday, Thursday through Saturday; 11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Sunday; Closed Tuesday and Wednesday and admission is charged. The home is not accessible, as there are many stairs to climb.
Tours begin with a short film followed by a guided tour through the 12,000-sq-ft home, which famously resembles a castle, and boasts 31 rooms. John Homer Bothwell, the man responsible for making Sedalia home to the State Fair, built the home and donated it to the state in his will. The estate is built from native rock found on the grounds over three natural caves, with the workshop housing a man-made opening to one of the caves below. Bothwell's home was environmentally friendly before that was the "in thing" and you'll discover many innovations in his design including, the most fascinating discovery on the tour for my children..... his method of bee keeping in the master bedroom! The property is also luxurious and you may choose to hike Stonyridge Trail where you'll discover a rock quarry, a stone gazebo and a small three-sided stone shelter used as a resting spot.
Do you have any great fair tips to share? What are your favorite shows, rides, and attractions? And, tell us about the "Must Eats" while you're there too!
Written by Kristina Light