While the Cotton Carnival is no longer held downtown and other changes have crept in over the past 59 years, the annual event remains a treasured tradition to the community, creating memories for yet another generation of wide-eyed Sikeston children.
This will be the third year for the carnival at the Rodeo Grounds. "It's more secure out here and people feel safer out here," explained Herb St. Mary, parade marshal and chairman of the American Legion's fish trailer and carnival grounds. "And we've got a lot more space."
Before moving out to the rodeo grounds, the Cotton Carnival was held at the Riverbirch Mall for a couple of years after being moved from American Legion Park downtown where it began and was held for roughly 50 years.
The carnival starts Tuesday and runs through Saturday with rides and most of the concessions opening around 5 p.m. during the week and 10 a.m. Saturday.
The American Legion Post 114's fish trailer, however, will open at 4 p.m. each day and will also be open for business from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. beginning Tuesday.
"We will be serving lunch out here all week," said St. Mary. "They can call their orders in for fish sandwiches and hamburgers and we'll have them all sacked up and ready for them when they pull up to the trailer."
Once the carnival actually opens, the available menu expands considerably. "There's several people with vending booths out here," said St. Mary. "Most of them are church groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Sons of the American Legion have a stand."
The Boy Scouts will offer barbecue sandwiches and chicken and the Girl Scouts will offer popcorn, hot dogs and chili dogs.
"We've got one trailer that serves chili and chili pies - sometimes they have fried pies," said St. Mary. "We've got the Shriners - they serve funnel cakes."
Food isn't the only traditional part of the Cotton Carnival that has survived the years. "We've got the Little Mister and Miss Cotton Carnival contest Wednesday starting at 7:30 p.m.," said St. Mary. The pageant is open for boys and girls 4-6 years old.
"Thursday night at 8 p.m. we have Junior Miss Sikeston," he continued. "That's girls going to junior high. Friday night we have Miss Sikeston, which is senior high school ladies." The Miss Sikeston Contest is scheduled to begin at 10 p.m.
"We're going to have a band Friday night: 'WTO,'" said St. Mary. "They're a country and western band.
"Saturday we have the crowning of the Miss Cotton Carnival. It's for all the girls that have won queen contests from out of town. Then we're going to have entertainment following." The Miss Cotton Carnival pageant is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
Rick Tinsley will provide the rides again this year. "We've got him under contract for several years," said St. Mary. "He runs an honest carnival, and his rides are as safe as anybody's around."
Armbands for $15 will be available on Tuesday and are good for any ride. Entertainment is scheduled from 6-10 p.m.
Wednesday will feature a ride special with all rides costing one coupon less than normal.
The carnival opens at 10 a.m. Saturday with $15 wristbands being good for rides from noon until 5 p.m.
"It's going to be real nice weather - I think we're going to have a good one," predicted St. Mary.