Combining carnivals, rock concerts, block parties and 4-H clubs, the Missouri State Fair is a love song to summer and the fine art of getting out and doing things. Insisting that people "Gotta Get There," the fair packs eleven dog days with big-name musicians and low-tech thrills.
Competition -- pitting die-hard factions of agriculturists and horticulturists against one another -- is the lifeblood of any state fair. Watch kids and adults square off with prize lilies and blue-ribbon heifers, and be sure to come back toward the end to make a bid on your favorite swine or goat. For those who don't melt over champion animals, there are crochet contests, cookoffs, demolition derbies and tractor pulls. And, of course, each contest comes with its own very specific set of rules.
The fair is torn between its love of the past and its all-too-obvious urge to embrace the present. Old-time acts like cowboys shooting from the saddle; horseshoe tosses; arm-wrestling competitions; and Crosby, Stills and Nash performances exist in stark contrast to extreme motocross, extreme canine shows and the extremely mellow rock of the Goo Goo Dolls.
Musically, the fair is country-heavy, but it does include such rock acts as Pinkeye d'Gekko; the ominously named gospel act the Solution; and plenty of cloggers, vocal trios and traveling music machines.
Beginning Thursday, August 7, and continuing through Sunday, August 17, fairgoers can wander the sprawling grounds, testing their mettle on midway games and their stomachs on carnival rides. There should still be plenty of time to gorge on the endless array of concessions in between.