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Grand marshal says tradition key to fair's success

Grand marshal says tradition key to fair's success

August 8th, 2018 by Michelle Brooks in Local News
Ken Wolken, who retired from the Moniteau County Fair board after 25 years, was named the 2018 parade grand marshal.

Ken Wolken, who retired from the Moniteau County...

Photo by Michelle Brooks /News Tribune.

Anyone who has volunteered on the Wednesday work night before the Moniteau County Fair begins, likely has at least one piece of swag from Ken Wolken.

The 25-year fair board member was named the parade grand marshal this year after retiring from the board. But, he hasn't lost his volunteer spirit.

As a young businessman, Wolken said he found the fair board a good fit when he was looking for a place in the community to make a difference.

"I fell into it and it kind of fit," he said.

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His first fair after being on the board, he found only a handful of board members turned out on the last work night, making it a late night for those few.

So, he decided to provide koozies, T-shirts and other freebies to fair volunteers, only if they helped out on the work night. Now, dozens of people turn out to help, many not even on the board. And, the work takes only a few hours.

"I said if I would be involved in something, it would be hands-on," Wolken said.

Over the years, Wolken said he also has been pleased with the growing resurgence of interest in the fair by young people.

There were years he and others would place dozens of phone calls searching for two or three people willing to join the board. This year, six people volunteered to fill one of the three board openings.

"I know it is in good hands for a long time to come," Wolken said.

As a child, Woken remembers riding the sled for weight in the horse pulls. Now, he is sad the nightly variety of horse shows have been replaced with motorized events.

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What hasn't changed is the atmosphere.

"We're small, but it's tradition; families come here for the fair, to see their neighbors and to visit," Wolken said.

The Moniteau County Fair is one of the lowest cost fairs in the state. That's by design, as the board simply tries to cover its operating budget, he said.

Each year, however, the board, which continues to work on the fair year-round, has tried to make improvements to the facilities, though.

Over Wolken's time, the grandstand received a roof, a new show barn was built, the property was enclosed with fencing and the ring was enlarged.

"We keep the good of the fair in mind, not just the individual stockholders," he said.

"We've had some fun with it,; we just plan a week-long party."