With the theme, "A Salute to Merchant Marines and Fire Departments," the carnival is being held at the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo Grounds and will run through Saturday.
The Carnival has proved to be one of the Sikeston area's most popular events, surviving for over a half century and after several down years, the move to the Rodeo Grounds last year has helped revitalize the local event.
"We've got more room out here at the Rodeo Grounds and everybody feels much safer," said Herb St. Mary of the Sikeston American Legion. "There is a lot more space to move around and there are more rides this year too. We also are able to have displays, which in the past we couldn't because we just didn't have the room."
St. Mary said the move is a definite improvement over some years in the past when the Cotton Carnival was held at the River Birch Mall.
"Some of those were a catastrophe," St. Mary said. While the move has helped rejuvenate the Cotton Carnival, the real reason for the success is tradition.
"People will come out and mingle," St. Mary said. "They will meet new people and see old friends. It is just something that families do and has become a tradition."
The Cotton Carnival has something for everyone year after year. "We have rides for adults and kids' rides," St. Mary said. "Plus we have our fish trailer out there for those who want good fish sandwiches and hamburgers."
One of the most popular times is wrist band night which is tonight. For $15 per person, carnival-goers can buy a wrist band and ride any ride.
Another tradition is the Cotton Carnival Parade, which is at 10 a.m. Saturday. The parade is the largest in the state and St. Mary said he has had numerous phone calls in the last couple of days for people trying to get in the parade.
While most who go to the Cotton Carnival know about wrist band night, the Miss Sikeston contest and Cotton Carnival Parade, not everyone knows about the Wednesday afternoon tradition.
It is on Wednesday when the American Legion opens up the carnival to area nursing homes, the Kenny Rogers Children's Center, New Dawn State School and Sheltered Workshop. There, the American Legion provides those who come with a fish sandwich or hamburger and a soda. Some rides are also open so they can ride while they are there.
"All of that is free and we've been doing it for some 50 years," St. Mary said. "Last year there were over 300 people and it is something that many of them look forward to all year long."
The goal of the American Legion is the same as it was for the first Cotton Carnival: to make money for the community.
"Almost all of the money we make goes to different organizations in the community," St. Mary said, naming the Boy Scouts, American Legion baseball team and United Way as just a few of the organizations they give money to. "During the year, a lot of money will go back into the community."
St. Mary and the rest of the American Legion invite everyone out to the Cotton Carnival.
"Hopefully we will have some good weather and we just hope everyone will come out and enjoy themselves," he said.