SEDALIA, MO. — The Missouri State Fair kicks off later this week, with more than 300,000 people are expected to attend officials’ plan to push COVID safety and vaccination.

Last year the fair took a different route with no concerts, grandstand events, or carnival, just a youth livestock show. This year, it’s back to normal, but fair-goers will also be able to fund hundreds of hand sanitizer stations, masks, and even a COVID vaccine on the fairgrounds. 

“We’re going to do everything we can on our end to keep things as clean and disinfected as we possibly can,” Director of the state fair Mark Wolfe said. “I think there will be some caution with certain folks, some who need to be more cautious based on their health issues.”

Vendors spent Monday setting up as carnival rides were unpacked and campers started pulling into their site for the next two weeks. 

“We’re going to have some new rides coming in for this that have never been here before and some returning ones that we haven’t had in a while,” Wolfe said. 

He said the carnival company, Wade Shows, requires their employees to be vaccinated. 

“The nice thing about that group, they are 100 percent vaccinated so, they are doing the part on their end to try and keep fair-goers safe,” Wolfe said. 

There are roughly 1,800 campsites on the fairgrounds, and Wolfe said they are nearly all sold out. One of the $9 million renovations in the past two years is upgrading the sites to 50 Amp. 

While fair-goers will still be able to eat a corndog and compete or attend a livestock show, Wolfe said he also wants to remind people to take personal responsibility. 

“Folks are just going to have to be careful and pay attention, understand their situation,” Wolfe said. “Social distancing is probably not something you can address at an event like this.”

Missouri’s first state fair was held in 1901, with only two years the far was halted because of the war, 1943 and 1944. Last year, instead of the 11-day fair only youth were showcased. 

“I know that the response last year to just the youth livestock event, our youth numbers were up 12% over a normal fair,” Wolfe said. 

Compared to 2020, this year’s fair will also look a little different with COVID testing and vaccination available. 

“I think we all several months ago thought we were headed in the right direction, and things were getting better, and obviously things have changed,” Wolfe said. 

There will also be masks available at ticket booths and handwashing and sanitation stations across the grounds. 

“There have to be a thousand mounted hand dispensers here on the fairgrounds,” Wolfe said. 

Last year, officials purchased foggers for bathrooms across the grounds. Wolfe said the plan is to use them this year to keep restrooms clean. 

“Our staff is prepared to go in and fog these things [restrooms] certainly every morning early and then throughout the day as we need to,” Wolfe said. “We’re going to do everything on our part to keep people as safe as possible, and folks will just need to use good common sense, and I think we will be good.”

The 119th fair will also offer vaccinations for anyone interested. The county will be at Mathewson Exhibition Center daily starting Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 22 from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. 

Wolfe said that usually, 340,000 people visit the fair each year, bringing in roughly $5 million. 

This will also be the first year many attendees see the new upgrades to buildings across the campus. 

“The sheep pavilion was one of the major renovations, about $2.5 million. It’s just like brand new,” Wolfe said. “We did a million dollars worth of electrical work upgrades on the swine barn, which was sorely in need of.”

In total, Wolfe said the state fair spent $9 million on renovations which also includes 137 more sites for exhibitors.

The fair kicks off on Thursday with an opening ceremony at 11 a.m. with Gov. Mike Parson. Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe and Wolfe. The fair runs through Sunday, Aug. 22. Admission is $12 for adults, seniors ages 60 and older are $8, kids ages 6 to 12 are $3, and kids aged five and younger are free. 

Visit the state fair’s website for the daily list of events