Nicole Lawrent of Columbia leaned against the gated fence Thursday morning surrounding the practice arena for horses at the Missouri State Fair, watching intently as other riders took their steeds through their paces.
Lawrent, 16, was at the fair with her Arabian, Cozmo, to compete later in the evening for Stephens College in the Saddle Seat Arabian Country Pleasure category.
She’s been riding for 11 years, and said, “It’s a challenge, and fun, when you get it right.” The horses are made to walk, trot and canter as an announcer bellows the commands through a microphone.
Lawrent’s been showing horses for about 10 years. “I always get nervous, but then once you get in the ring, it usually goes away,” she said
At smaller venues, there are hardly any spectators, but the state fair is different. “It’s a big show,” Lawrent said. “It’s probably the biggest show I’ve ever gone to.”
On the other side of the Midway, inside the Swine Barn, Tyler Martin of Centralia was tending to Doug, his Boone County champion pig. The pig squealed in anticipation as he watched his midday meal being mixed in a bucket.
Tyler, 12, will be showing the swine for 4-H. Tyler gets up at 6 a.m. to start caring for Doug and his other pigs; he feeds them, cleans their stalls and takes them for walks to help loosen their muscles and joints.
Tyler’s mother, Janice Martin, said raising the animals helps teach responsibility. She said the pigs are divided by breeds and weight classes, and one child at a time shows the pig in front of a judge.
Sarah Hesse also knows about the responsibilities of animal care. Hesse, a third-year veterinary medicine student at MU, is part of the MU Mule Club team that brought two 11-year-old mules named Tim and Terry to the fair. Hesse said the team planned to display the mules, owned by MU, in the parade on Thursday night that marked the official opening of this year’s fair.
Hesse said it’s the students’ job to take care of the mules on a daily basis. Although Hesse was heading back to Columbia on Thursday evening, the rest of the team would be sleeping over in the stall next to the mules.
A fair that’s known to be big on agriculture has more to offer than just the farm culture of Missouri. Within earshot of the practice horse arena, the funky notes of African music fill the air. With smiles that never fade and enough energy to keep them bouncing, dancing and tumbling, the MaPaPa Acrobats add an international flavor.
The MaPaPas, whose name means “shucks,” is comprised of five men in their late 20s from the town of Mombasa, Kenya. The men grew up together and taught themselves tumbling, working and practicing until they were given the opportunity to travel internationally.
“When you’re traveling, you see different things, you see a different world,” said member Bishop Charo.
The group has been touring the United States for a year, performing a show filled with juggling, limbo, flips and human pyramids. They’ll be performing three shows each day at this year’s fair.
Member Amani Borah said the show takes a lot of practice and teamwork. He said they use a type of music called Ingala, from the Mowri language, though all the men speak Swahili as their natural language.
The fair continues through Aug. 22. Gates open at 7:30 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. daily. Admission is $7 for adults and $6 for seniors 60 and older. Admission is free for children 12 or younger.
Fair officials estimated the fairground generates $17.54 million a year for the city of Sedalia.