Most anything having to do with the Missouri State Fair is going to elicit strong opinions from Sedalia residents and the release of the attendance figures this year was no different. According to the Missouri State Fair 337,112 people enjoyed the fair and put some cash into our local businesses over it's eleven days.

It didn't take very long for people to start weighing in on the 1050 KSIS Facebook page complaining how we don't measure up to the Iowa State Fair. How the concert line ups are weak. How expensive it is to go to the fair. How the carnival isn't good enough. It goes on and on. It's not just our Facebook page either, it's any Facebook post talking about the fair

 

Here's the thing. Comparing the fair here in Sedalia to the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is comparing apples to oranges. The Des Moines metro area has a population of over 600,000. The Sedalia metro area 42,000. Throw in the gold standard of state fairs, The State Fair of Texas, which is in Dallas and it's metro population of over seven million and there's no comparison.

If you come to the Missouri State Fair you're coming for the fair. Simply, Des Moines, Dallas, and many other places where state fairs are held offer more than just the fair. There's historical, cultural and entertainment options that we just don't have and won't ever. So thinking we should be getting attendance figures equivalent to the Iowa State Fair is just wrong. And if we did, Sedalia would pretty much be paralyzed.

When you have a million people attending your fair it probably becomes a little easier to book bigger and more choice acts. It's probably also easier to afford those acts and keep ticket prices competitive. Could the fair get better acts? Maybe, but bidding for and booking shows can be expensive and competitive so nothing with that is a slam dunk. Especially if the fair is attempting to keep ticket prices rather reasonable.

This leads to the biggest complaint: How expensive it is to attend. Yet, it's the state fair. It's not made for the 42,000 people who live close enough to attend multiple days or head over every night after work.

It's designed for families, couples, friends, to come and enjoy a long weekend. Or be the centerpiece of a family vacation. Or be the highlight of the summer for kids and farmers to showcase the hard work they put into helping feed America every day. So yeah,I think it's expected that those who attend are spending their vacation fund to do it and it's priced accordingly. We sometimes forget that because we live here.

We also forget the fair offers plenty of discounts on admissions, carnival rides, concessions and even free admission during some lunch hours for those willing to schedule their fair visit around the offers. And other entertainment available to us every August: Cardinals and Royals games; Worlds of Fun or Six Flags St. Louis; major concerts in Kansas City; or even road trips to other state fairs aren't any cheaper.

That's not to say all constructive criticism of the fair isn't worthy of discussion. Looking at our survey of who you want to see at the fair leads me to believe some tweaking and broadening of the grandstand entertainment could help the fair. Perhaps some admission or concert ticket packages designed to save some money for fair goers who might attend multiple nights or evenings might be worth exploring. And fair officials really should be conscious of making sure that the fair changes, grows, and offers people new experiences every year.

It's tiresome to read posts from people who think the fair needs to be better, but at the same time needs to be cheaper. It's tiresome to read posts from people trying to equate the Missouri State Fair with any other state fair, especially one in a metro area of 600,000 when we're in a metro area of 42,000.

Let's talk about all the fun a lot of us have at the fair every year. Let's talk about truly actionable things those involved in running the fair can do to make it better for everyone. If we do that, no one will care what they're doing in Iowa.