SEDALIA, Mo. -- Missouri’s top officials pledged their political and financial support to the State Fair on Thursday despite the controversy over a weekend rodeo clown act that mocked President Barack Obama.
Scores of politicians and hundreds of fairgoers turned out for the governor’s annual ham breakfast at the Sedalia fairgrounds in what amounted to a symbolic reaffirmation of the state’s support for the fair.
The breakfast was held five days after the bull riding contest in which one rodeo clown wore an Obama mask while another riled up spectators while asking if they wanted to see Obama run down by a bull.
Missouri’s elected officials quickly denounced the stunt as disrespectful, and the State Fair imposed a lifetime ban on the rodeo clown who made the disparaging statements about Obama. Some Democratic House members had suggested further repercussions, including cancelling the governor’s annual ham breakfast and possibly cutting state funding for the fair.
But Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon pressed forward with the breakfast, which has been a traditional gathering spot at which politicians of all parties can shake hands with Missouri residents in an informal atmosphere.
Nixon, who on Thursday wore cowboy boots with his blue blazer and tie, said the rodeo clown act was “inappropriate and offensive” but wasn’t a reason to cancel the breakfast or cut fair funding. To the contrary, Nixon said he supported efforts to improve the fairgrounds’ facilities.
“One action like this is not going to in anyway slow down the strong progress and the vital importance that this showcase is for agriculture,” Nixon said.
Republican House and Senate leaders also pledged their support for the fair.
House Budget Committee Chairman Rick Stream, who toured the fairground facilities Wednesday with several other lawmakers, said he supports spending more money on capital improvements that could allow the fairgrounds to be used year-round for events. He said that could bring in more revenues, which could further reduce the state subsidy for the fair’s operations.