The Missouri State Fair has been an interesting and integral part of Sedalia ever since it began in 1901, and author Rhonda Chalfant, PhD, has recently released a new book, Missouri State Fair (Images of America series), that gives a pictorial and written history of the Missouri State Fair.
The new book is the third solo book from Chalfant, and the first from Arcadia Publishing.
“This is the first one with Arcadia. They approached me. Someone had referred me to them I think,” Chalfant said.
The book can also be found on amazon.com.
The book has an abundance of pictures inside, along with written information, and trying to find that many pictures can sometimes be a difficult experience.
Chalfant was asked if that was the case for this book.
“This time I was very fortunate. The Democrat cleaned out an old office, and they uncovered a large box of negatives, which they donated to the historical society. Mostly they were from the late 40s and 50s.
“Scanning the photos and organizing was the most time consuming,” Chalfant said.
Chalfant was asked how long it took to put together her latest book.
“A couple of years, between when they first approached me and when it was published,” she said.
“Good so far. I have heard favorable comments and people have expressed interest,” she said.
Chalfant was asked how important the Missouri State Fair has been to the community of Sedalia.
“Very important. Sedalia had tried to become the site of a state facility since 1873. They kept getting turned down.
“In the 1880s there were proposals that Sedalia become the site of a lunatic asylum. Sedalia was very anxious to become a state facility.
“What the Missouri State Fair gave Sedalia was a large contingent of people coming into town every year, spending money as well as giving the city another nickname. The Missouri State Fair is our major tourist attraction,” Chalfant explained.
One of those aspects is the unique architecture of the Missouri State Fair.
The buildings on the fair grounds were originally designed by architect Thomas Bast.
Bast designed many buildings in Sedalia, and his style was described by Chalfant as a eclectic mix of Romanesque Revival, Mission, Arts and Crafts Style, known locally as Bastonian.
“His architectural designs are one of the most important things about the fairground buildings. No two buildings look alike, but they have a cohesive appearance,” Chalfant said.
The Missouri State Fair was founded to showcase the many agricultural aspects of Missouri.
“The fair originators felt that it would showcase agriculture, but also be educational. Women could come and learn new processes in baking and sewing.
“As Missouri has become more industrial, the element of industry has been added. We can go to the state fair and see the latest in technological innovations,” Chalfant said.
Chalfant was sure to pay attention to those local businesses that were able to capitalize on the name recognition of the state fair.
There have been many businesses over the years that have taken advantage of the state fair name, including the State Fair Filling Station, State Fair Floral Company, State Fair Restaurant, and the State Fair Shopping Center.
“Businesses have capitalized on the state fair. There was a time when merchants would pay your way to the Missouri State Fair if you shopped with them,” Chalfant said.