Walk down Main Street on the Missouri State Fairgrounds just past the Pork Place and look to the east. Just beyond the grassy lawn and the asphalt parking lot is the back door to the basement of the Historic Administration Building. Right above it hangs a green sign that reads "Museum." Push open the door and you will find a treasure trove of memorabilia from fairs gone by.
"It is almost a hidden gem here on the fairgrounds," says Tony Perryman, superintendent of the Missouri State Fair Museum. It is an attraction worth seeking out during this year's Missouri State Fair.
The museum opened during the fair's centennial celebration in 2002. At the start, Perryman says much of the display was just old photographs. As fairgoers found the museum, they offered to donate or lend the museum additional Missouri State Fair artifacts. Today, the museum has three rooms full of fair memorabilia, artwork and photographs.
Missouri State Fair director portraits fill one room. In another, former fair queen photographs adorn the walls.
Wood and glass cases filled with belt buckles, trophies and ribbons are also a part of the museum exhibits.
The oldest piece of state fair memorabilia in the museum is from 1906. It is a small maroon crystal souvenir goblet donated by former Missouri State Fair director Marion Lucas and his wife, Fran.
Then there are unique items like the postmarks on envelopes. "Every year, fairgoers can have a letter postmarked at the Missouri State Fair — right behind the grandstand in a small wooden building," Perryman explains. Individuals can bring a letter or envelope to that location and have it stamped with the current year's theme. This year's state fair theme is "Come Home." The museum collects stamped envelopes from each year.
Sharing the past
A bit of a history buff, Perryman likes interacting with individuals who come into the museum. "Some point to people in the photos and know them, or are their relatives," he says. "They will tell their story. I learn a little every year."
The museum is free and open to the public during all 11 days of the Missouri State Fair. Check out the slideshow above for a sneak peek inside the museum. Then make a point to visit it during your visit to the fair to be held Aug. 10-20 this year.