Fair endures as American icon

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

This year's SEMO District Fair fended off a sluggish economy, bridge construction delays and a national tragedy to distract, delight and reward roughly 100,000 visitors. It remains one of the region's annual highlights. From rousing star performers to sticky caramel apples, there was a little bit for everyone. Such a large event does not take place without serious coordination, and all involved in the planning and organization of the fair deserve congratulations.

There are too many people integral to the planning and running of the fair to name all here: literally, hundreds are involved. They are your neighbors, area farmers, and local businesses, who are assisted by local government and public safety officials. Here's just a sense of the many different responsibilities for such an event:

Admissions/gates/passes, advertising, arena set-up and cleanup, beer and soda sales, box seat management, carnival coordination, catalog production, catalog advertising sales, comfort stations/sanitation, inside and outside concessions, corporate sponsor solicitations, electrical, entries management, 4-H/FFA livestock sales and public speaking, grandstand events, grandstand gates and ushers, grounds, horse show, information tent, insurance/legal/bylaws, judges, livestock support, office staff, on-grounds entertainment, parade, parking and public safety, photography, public relations, R&R tent, awards, scholarships, state entertainment, table and chair rentals, tents, traffic control, trams, volunteer support and volunteers.

Officers for the 2001 fair were: Bob James, president; Steve Obermann, vice president; Marilyn Schott, secretary; Chris Weiss, treasurer; and Cameron Mitchell, custodian. The rest of the voting board included Sam Below, Gary Gerecke, Gary Knight, Bob Nitsch, Ewin Peetz Jr., Pete Poe and James K. Sander. Besides serving on the voting board, most of these members also were active as chairmen of specific committees.

Undoubtedly, adding an extra day to the event this year helped maintain the numbers from last year. And the marketing efforts were solid again. Weather, too, cooperated, and when it didn't, staff quickly responded to bring in groundcover to soak up an overnight torrential rain.

The fair is a quintessential aspect of life in Southeast Missouri, a celebration which harkens the strong rural roots of our community. It is also an entertainment extravaganza with top-name acts, tests of skill and whirling rides. No wonder so many families walked through its gates this year, leaving behind other concerns.

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