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The Missouri State Fair will focus on a youth livestock show this year, forgoing many traditional fair events due to public health concerns.

Fair organizers announced the change Friday, framing it as a return to the fair's roots as "a showcase of Missouri agriculture."

"Staying true to that tradition, the fair will continue to allow the invaluable agriculture education experience to Missouri 4-H and FFA members by offering a Youth Livestock Show only," according to a news release.

The change means the opening day ceremony, Governor's Ham Breakfast, carnival midway and all other non-youth livestock-related events are canceled.

The youth livestock show is scheduled Aug. 13-23.

In explaining the decision, organizers pointed to two factors, both tied to the global pandemic. Citing changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19 in Missouri, the release stated the original decision to hold the fair as planned was made when "the information and numbers were different than they are now."

In Missouri, there were 868 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Friday, the third-largest single-day increase. The new cases brought the total to 31,288, a 37 percent increase from two weeks ago. The number of deaths also increased by eight to 1,121, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The release stated fair organizers decided to try to reduce the number of people on the fairgrounds in collaboration with Gov. Mike Parson and DHSS. It noted "best practices for sanitation and public health will still be implemented during the youth livestock show."

Another factor driving the decision was the effect the pandemic has had on the fair's usual partners, sponsors and vendors, with the release noting that many had to either limit or cancel their participation this year. The result is that only limited concessions will be available on the grounds to serve exhibitors and families.

The fair will issue "applicable refunds," according to the release. Kari Mergen, marketing director for the Missouri State Fair, said that applies to those who have paid for camping, tickets to events or entries. It also applies to vendors who can no longer attend, though she noted they can opt to have the fair keep the money and hold it to apply for the 2021 event.

Exhibitor camping will still be available and all current reservations will be honored. For more information on camping at the fair, email [email protected]

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