SEDALIA — He walks among the fairgoers, sweeping trash off the grounds from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day to earn money to buy school supplies. At 14, Brent Katzing is working his first summer job as a maintenance worker at the Missouri State Fair.
“It’s just hard, walking a lot,” Katzing said.
The State Fair offers contests, food, music and extra income for the residents of Sedalia. The city of 20,000 has been home to the fair since 1901.
The name of Tyson Foods, Sedalia’s largest employer, is stamped across the back of Katzing’s work uniform, a bright-orange T-shirt with the official State Fair logo on the front. Katzing is one of 550 area residents working this year’s fair.
The Sedalia Chamber of Commerce estimates that in 2001-02, the fairgrounds contributed more than $17 million to the local economy. That figure includes not only the State Fair but also all the events that occur at the fairgrounds, such as a renaissance festival and the annual Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival.
As of Tuesday, this year’s fair attendance was 225,700, not including advance ticket sales. Last year at the same time, attendance was 214,000, including advance ticket sales.
According to the Chamber of Commerce, overnight guests to the area spend an average of $59 per day, and daily visitors spend $23 in Sedalia.
Although there are no recent estimates regarding how much money visitors bring to Sedalia, Kimberly Allen, fair marketing director, said she believes the economic impact has increased during the past few years.
“Every room in the city is out right now,” Allen said. “Some people shop; some people buy ice and groceries.”
The Show-Me Kort Motel, just outside the fairgrounds on South Limit Avenue, hasn’t had a vacancy during the State Fair in the 10 years under its current family ownership. Visitors come from Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and as far away as Texas.
Sherry Raeder, owner of the Show-Me Kort Motel, said other events on the grounds keep business booming throughout the year.
“The MS 150 Charity Bicycle Ride, soccer tournaments, Scott Joplin — I could just go on and on,” she said.
Fred Kennedy, 46, has been district manager for the Taco Bell across from the fairgrounds for 16 years. He said the store averages a 20 percent increase in sales during the fair, and he asks his employees to work about 15 hours more than usual each week of the fair. “I’m sure glad it happens,” Kennedy said.
Cody Hammond, 16, sits in a lawn chair beneath an umbrella outside of the fair’s VIP parking lot from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day, standing occasionally when a car approaches. His job is to direct visitors to the proper lots according to the color-coded stickers on their windshields. He has worked before for his dad remodeling houses, but this is his first State Fair.
“It’s been pretty easy,” Hammond said. “They said I’d be doing a lot of running. It’s just directing people.”
Hammond plans to put his earnings, which he estimates to be about $5 an hour, in the bank.
“They didn’t tell me how much,” Hammond said.
Other Sedalians earn money as vendors selling everything from sunscreen to cigarettes.
Kelly Miller, 27, works at her dad’s cart selling popcorn and beverages from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. She works as a bartender during the rest of the year.
“I’m so tired. I took vacation time from one to work at another,” Miller said.
She does not underestimate the fair’s economic benefits for Sedalia.
“It brings a lot of business to everybody — fast food, Wal-Mart, Kmart.”