Fair kicks off 8-day run today

Saturday, September 8, 2001

The Southeast Missouri District Fair, billed as the oldest outdoor event in the state, kicks off today, and fair officials hope their effort to offer something for everyone will lead to big attendance figures.

The 146th annual fair officially opens in Arena Park at 1 p.m. A free, antique-tractor pull is scheduled for 9 a.m. today at the grandstand, and food and poultry recipe contests will be held at 2 p.m. the R&R tent.

This year's fair will run eight days, ending Sept. 15.

Entertainment includes country music, horse shows, crashing cars, beauty pageants, midway rides, agricultural shows and judging, and a gospel concert at 7 tonight at the grandstand. Astro Amusements will offer midway entertainment.

Admission at the gates is $2 for adults and children over 12 except Sunday, when admission is free. A weekly pass is available for $10. Parking is $3, and trams will provide free transportation between parking lots and gates after 4 p.m. daily and on weekend afternoons.

The traditional fair parade will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday from Capaha Park to Arena Park.

Fair queens will be selected at the R&R tent starting at 3 p.m. Sunday. The beauty pageant includes six divisions: Tiny Miss SEMO Fair for 2- and 3-year-olds, Little Miss SEMO Fair for 4- through 6-year-olds, Young Miss SEMO Fair for 7- through 9-year-olds, Preteen Miss SEMO Fair for 10- through 13-year-olds, Teen Miss SEMO Fair for 14- through 16-year-olds and Miss SEMO Fair for 17- through 33-year-olds.

Among many free activities are exhibitions of vegetables, crops and livestock; Missouri Department of Conservation displays; Flores Family Circus performances throughout the week; a petting zoo; Robinson family chain-saw demonstrations; and comedian Hillbilly Bob and his antique Model A Ford.

First time for contest

The Horse and Mule Hitch Challenge for anyone over 65 is new to the fair this year. It will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the grandstand. Fair board member Pete Poe described it as an obstacle course. There is no charge to enter or watch the action, and the team hitch will be provided, he said.

"We're hoping for a big attendance, and I think we'll have it if the weather cooperates," Poe said.

The fair drew more than 100,000 people last year, considered an excellent turnout. "We hope for that many again this year," said Poe, who has been involved with the exhibition since 1987.

Three types of groups

The country music entertainers will have a lot of influence on attendance. Each year, the fair invites three types of groups, Poe said: a legend, a top star and an up-and-coming artist.

Trick Pony, whose three members had spent four years traveling from one honky-tonk to another in a van until making a Top 10 hit this year, will perform Thursday night.

The top star, Neal McCoy, performs Friday night. McCoy's professional music career started in 1981 in a Dallas supper club, after which he began six years of touring with established country star Charley Pride.

Charley Pride performs Saturday night. Unofficially, Pride started his music career in the late 1950's as a ballplayer with the Negro American League's Memphis Red Sox singing and playing guitar on the team bus between ballparks.

Each concert begins at 8 p.m. in the grandstand.

rowen@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 133

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