Missouri State Fair Milestones


The Missouri State Fair is created on April 19, 1899 by the 40th General Assembly. The State Board of Agriculture selects Sedalia Missouri as the location of the Missouri State Fair. The fairgrounds are to be built on 150 acres of land donated by the Van Riper family.


An appropriation of $15,000 is approved for the start up fees of the Fair.


The 41st General Assembly appropriates $50,000 for erecting buildings and establishing the site. The first Missouri State Fair is held on the Fairgrounds for 5 days in September with 25,246 people attending.


The first permanent brick buildings are built: Varied Industries for $23,794; Commercial Building for $22,799; and the FFA for $14,000.


The Coliseum is built for $70,000 and the 4-H Building for $16,000.


Twenty-four acres of ground adjoining the main entrance are purchased to provide free camping for fair visitors.


Attendance reaches 100,000 and the Wright Brothers provide daily exhibitions during the Fair.


President William Howard Taft attends the Missouri State Fair on Mule Day the main entrance are purchased to provide free camping for fair visitors.


The Fairgrounds serve as the site for the State of Missouri Centennial Celebration. This special exposition is held during the fair. An opera company performs “The Pageant of Missouri” each night in the grandstand, depicting in song and dance the history of the state.Wright Brothers provide daily exhibitions during the Fair.


The Board of Agriculture becomes the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the State Fair Board is abolished. From this date until January 1996 the Director of Agriculture through the Division of Fairs administers the fair.

1943 & 1944

No fair is held because of World War II.


An additional 40 acres are purchased, bringing the Fair’s total acreage to 276.


Forty & Eight Railroad Car placed on the Missouri State Fairgrounds as a symbol of the friendship between France and the United States during world war II.


The golden anniversary of the Missouri State Fair is marked with tragedy when the fairgrounds are hit by a tornado at 1:20am on Aug 20. The storm centers on the midway area and a carnival employee is killed.
Despite suffering extensive damage to all 60 permanent buildings on the fairgrounds, totaling almost $700,000, the fair is back in operation the following evening.

Early 1950s

President Harry S Truman visits the Missouri State Fair.


For the first time in the fair’s history a woman is named superintendent of the horse show. Mrs. Claude Drew, of Columbia, head of equitation at Columbia College, is the “pioneer” superintendent.


President Harry S Truman visits the Missouri State Agriculture Building is built, marking the first completely climate-controlled building on the fairgrounds.


A modern 8,000-seat Grandstand is erected using 60,000 pounds of concrete and 50 miles of cold drawn high tensile wire steel, at a cost of $509,000.


A major rock music festival, The Ozark Music Festival, is held on the fairgrounds in the off-season.


President Ronald Reagan speaks in the historic Coliseum during the Fair.


An 86,000-square-foot Exhibition Center with permanent seating for 3,155, expandable to 5,500 with portable seats, is opened, costing $7.6 million.


The Exhibition Center is named the James L. Mathewson Exhibition Center in honor of the local senator who was instrumental in garnering support for the Missouri State Fair in the General Assembly. Major renovations are made to several buildings to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, costing $1.5 million.


The Missouri General Assembly passes legislation creating a nine-member Commission to oversee the operations of the Missouri State Fair. The Commission members are appointed by the Governor, with membership to be split between the two major political parties and with the Director of Agriculture to serving as the ninth member.


The Missouri General Assembly earmarks funding for the development of a Master Plan. $1.5 million is spent updating and improving the Fairground’s storm and sanitary sewer system.


The Missouri State Fair Foundation is established to preserve, improve and perpetuate the State Fairgrounds and State Fair for future generations of Missourians.

The Missouri State Fair Commission accepts the completed Master Plan. The 9,600-square-foot MO-Ag Theater opens as an air-conditioned entertainment venue at a total cost of $280,000. MO-Ag Industries generously contributes $25,000 to the building’s construction.


The 4,800-square-foot Gerken Dairy Center is opened and dedicated in memory of the late Bud Gerken. The total building cost is $352,000 – a mix of public ($262,000) and private funds ($90,000 from the dairy industry). Funding of $4.3 million is approved by the Missouri General Assembly for the initial projects of the Master Plan.


The Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives’ Board of Directors donates $300,000 toward the construction of a new 9,600-square-foot Media Center, with the dedication and grand opening at the 2000 Missouri State Fair at a total cost of $950,000.

The Missouri General Assembly approves funding for a new Missouri National Guard Armory to be built on the Fairgrounds. The building will include 12,000 square feet of space for Missouri State Fair Administrative Offices, at a total cost of approximately $7.5 million.


The historic Coliseum and Swine Pavilion are renovated.


The Fair celebrates 100 Fairs of Fun. The new Centennial Entrance opens. The bottom floor of the Womans Building is renovated for a Missouri State Fair Museum. Both the entrance and the museum are dedicated during the Fair.

A New FFA Building is dedicated – the first building on the Missouri State Fairgrounds to be built totally through private donations. Funding for the new $425,000 facility is made possible by a joint effort between corporate donations and fundraising efforts from FFA chapters across Missouri.

The project was able to get off the ground due to a major financial pledge from Farm Credit Services. Other lead donors providing generous contributions include MFA Inc., MFA Oil and Septagon Industries.


The new National Guard Armory and Administration Building opens.


379,063 people attended the 11-day Fair, making it the highest attended Fair in over a decade.

President George W. Bush speaks in the historic Coliseum during a campaign stop.


The “Drought Buster” brings rain to 9 of the Fair’s 11 days.


A record-breaking Sale of Champions.


Triple-digit temperatures make the buildings with newly installed air conditioning extremely appreciated. The “Drought Buster” brings rain to 9 of the Fair’s 11 days.


Two new family-friendly locations are added to the fairgrounds, and the original Poultry Building is renovated to become the Family Fun Center. This climate-controlled building includes a baby feeding and changing area with rocking chairs for nursing moms, as well as changing tables and microwaves to warm formula and food.

The Kids Zone Play Area is added behind the MEC Building.


Opening day attendance sets a record of 49,150; highlights include the opening day ceremony, which features Governor Nixon performing the ribbon cutting for the Missouri Pork Association’s new Pork Place.

A record 46,776 people visit the Fair on the second Saturday. Contributing to the increase in attendance is the sold-out country music act at Grandstand concert featuring Brooks & Dunn.

The Home Economics Building and Poultry/Rabbit Building celebrate their 100th year on the Fairgrounds.


The Womans Building celebrated its 100th Year on the Missouri State Fairgrounds.


Beautiful weather on Saturday, Aug 13, and the sold-out Jason Aldean concert contributed to an attendance high, on recent record, of 51,612 fair guests.

Severe weather hit Sedalia early morning Aug 19. The fairgrounds suffered loss of electrical power and some damage to temporary structures. Because of the efforts and cooperation of the Missouri Highway Patrol, Emergency Responders and many volunteers, there were no injuries to humans or livestock as a result of the storm. Gates were open at 3 p.m., the same day, and a crowd gathered to enjoy the evening’s entertainment.


The 110th anniversary was celebrated by reflecting on milestones and accomplishments of the State Fair and its many stakeholders. Special activities commemorated the long-running agricultural showcase including walking tours of the historical buildings and fairgrounds, and a 48-foot wall of photographs through the decades. A tribute was also made to the State Fair Volunteer Fire Department for their 50 years of service.


The 17,600-square-foot MFA Youth Livestock Arena debuts at the July 4-H and FFA Horse Show and is dedicated on Opening Day of the Fair, August 8. The Arena, which is adjacent to the historic Coliseum, was made possible by the MFA Foundation, MFA Incorporated Foundation, MFA Oil Foundation and the Missouri Development Finance Board and will serve young agriculturalists during the Fair and for events year round.


Exceptional Rodeo dedicated this year’s event to the late Art DeJaynes, long-time event sponsor and State Fair partner.
Attendance on Wednesday, Aug 13 swelled in comparison to previous Wednesdays as the demographics of this day turned from a senior to a more youthful crowd attending the sold-out Florida Georgia Line and Colt Ford concert that evening.


The Missouri State Fair debuted a new permanent exhibit honoring Missouri farm families and their contributions to the Fair and Missouri agriculture. The exhibit was donated in part by WB Young Co. of Marshall.

The Missouri State Fair was recognized for excellence by the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) as the winner of the Overall Judges Creative Award for its special agricultural educational event titled “Let’s Talk Livestock,” a project implemented with the support of Missouri 4-H and Missouri FFA.


The Sale of Champions auction on Youth in Agriculture Day brought a record-breaking $157,350 for youth exhibitors and scholarships.

The Missouri State Fair was recognized for excellence by the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) as the winner of the Agriculture Sweepstakes Award for overall agricultural programming and Best Marketing Campaign.


The Missouri State Fair experienced record-breaking days for admissions revenue on four of the eleven days of the Fair, including the first Saturday, which featured a sold-out crowd for the Alan Jackson and Lee Ann Womack concert. Other record-breaking days included the first Sunday and Monday and the highest-grossing Tuesday since 2006, along with an all-time high second Saturday.

The Youth in Agriculture Scholarship program celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Renovations to the historic Swine Barn included new pens and show ring panels and the addition of new aluminum bleachers. More than $55,000 was raised during the 2017 Fair to continue the renovation process.


The second Saturday reported a record-breaking day for admissions revenue with more than 50,000 people on the Fairgrounds.

The historic 396-acre Fairgrounds received several substantial facility upgrades including renovations to the Coliseum, Womans Building, Swine Pavilion and West Campground.

The Drive to Feed Kids initiative had a very successful second year – Nearly 19,000 pounds of non-perishable food donated; more than 100,000 family-size meals provided; resources raised to feed nearly 1.2 million hungry children.

New records were set at the Governor’s Ham Breakfast and Sale of Champions auctions. The Breakfast raised $37,800 in support of youth in agriculture scholarships and fairgrounds improvements; the Sale total was $195,350 with a portion of the funds used to benefit Missouri youth involved in agriculture.


The Gerken Dairy Center celebrated its 20th anniversary and The Pork Place celebrated its 40th anniversary.
National treasure and Fair icon Smokey Bear turned 75 on Missouri Department of Natural Resources Day, August 9.

The Missouri State Fair was recognized for excellence by the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) as a winner for the Best Marketing Campaign featuring the 2019 “Come Home” theme.


Planning for the traditional Fair was as normal until March when the Coronavirus Pandemic became a reality across the nation and in Missouri. Fair staff proceeded with planning for the Fair, but with caution and adjusted timelines for making solid plans or investments due to the unknown status of the 2020 Fair. On July 17, the Fair pivoted from a traditional Fair to a youth livestock show. Missouri 4-H and Missouri FFA youth showcased their livestock and competitive exhibits, and select concessions and show stock supply vendors were open to service exhibitors. The Grand and Reserve Grand Champion hams and bacons were auctioned in the Swine Barn, and the Sale of Champions took place as scheduled, breaking numerous records from previous sales and raising a total of $193,120 for youth in agriculture.


A traditional Fair returned in 2021 after a youth livestock-only State Fair in 2020. The Fair partnered with the Missouri Bicentennial Alliance to celebrate Missouri’s bicentennial year with various displays and events across the fairgrounds. The Fair, themed, “Our Missouri Celebration,” set records for youth in agriculture at the Sale of Champions and also set records in the carnival, with over $1M in revenue over the 11-day Fair. The Drive to Feed Kids raised resources to provide over 2 million meals to help feed hungry children across the state.


The Swine Barn celebrated its 100th year on the Missouri State Fairgrounds. Several activities and special events occurred during the Fair to mark this milestone.

The Missouri State Fair Fire Department celebrated its 60 years of service.

The Drive to Feed Kids initiative raised resources to provide over 2.4 million meals for Missourians who are food insecure.

The Sale of Champions auction set new records raising $256,825 to benefit Missouri youth involved in agriculture.

An additional 201 acres was purchased, bringing the Fair’s total acreage to 597.


Admissions gates and the carnival reported the biggest revenue days on record for the first Saturday and Monday. Additionally, admissions revenue recorded the biggest day on record for the second Friday and carnival reported the biggest day on record for revenue on Tuesday.

Lainey Wilson with Jackson Dean sold out the State Fair Grandstand on the day tickets went on sale.

The Sale of Champions auction set a new record raising over $275,000 to benefit Missouri youth involved in agriculture.