Heat wave no match for dedicated fairgoers

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Business was good for vendors selling baseball caps, sunglasses and electric fans.

SEDALIA, Mo. -- State Fair worker Lin McDonald had a blunt message Saturday for those willing to defy the excessive heat warnings and attend the 105th annual celebration of rural Missouri.

Let the buyer beware.

"It's August in Missouri. What do you expect?" said McDonald, a state government worker from Springfield who takes paid vacation each summer to work at a fair information booth.

With the heat index soaring near 110 degrees and several more days of triple-digit temperatures on the horizon, most fairgoers knew exactly what to expect.

For Sedalia resident Robert Goodwin and his two young children, their beat-the-heat strategy was simple: arrive early, leave early. By noon Saturday, the Goodwins had already packed in three hours' worth of visits to the children's barnyard and agricultural exhibits.

The other stuff could wait until the children return with their grandparents in the fair's second week, Goodwin said.

"We did pretty much everything," said Goodwin, accompanied by his 6-year-old son, Logan, and daughter Leia, 3.

Business was good for vendors selling baseball caps, cowboy hats, sunglasses and electric fans. On the other end of the spectrum, the guys selling wood-burning outdoor furnaces were about as busy as the Maytag repairman.

On the midway, plenty of carnival workers stood idle Saturday morning, their half-hearted come-hithers no match for the thick, humid air and relentless, blaring sun.

Not everyone was willing to concede defeat to Mother Nature. Sunglasses salesman Chris Beuer, who lives in Texas, said the weather in mid-Missouri was no match for back home.

"I'm used to this kind of weather," he said. Compared to his previous job pouring concrete, working the fair was a breeze, Beuer added.

Fair organizers made some concessions to the weather, moving several previously scheduled outdoor events into shaded exhibit halls to protect the horses, cattle and other animals.

Preliminary attendance figures won't be available until Monday, but fair spokeswoman Tammi Nichols called the opening day turnout on Thursday "tremendous."

Tickets for big-name concert acts such as rockers Alice Cooper and Blue Oyster Cult, Saturday's headliners, and country singer Dierks Bentley today had sold briskly, said Nichols.

"A lot of people wait to come out at night when it's cooler and to see the concerts," she said.

The rising mercury led some exhibitors to entice fairgoers with promises of relief before laying down the sales pitch.

The Missouri Republican Party offered free cups of water in exchange for entering their booth -- a deal even Democrats, or anyone else who wanted to avoid paying for bottled water, could embrace.

The fair continues through Aug. 19.

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