American Legion members and volunteers will start setting up at the Rodeo grounds Saturday, according to Larry Floyd, Sikeston's American Legion post commander and general chairman for the carnival.
Many remember the Cotton Carnival as a downtown event as it was held there for decades before outgrowing that area. Organizers then tried holding it at the Riverbirch Mall for three years before moving it to the Rodeo grounds where it has remained for the last five years.
"It will be held at the Jaycees' Rodeo ground from now on," Floyd said. "There's more room, a better atmosphere, more parking area. It was always kind of cramped in town. This way it doesn't interfere with the local businesses. Overall, it's a better deal out there. The Jaycees have been real good to us." In appreciation, American Legion volunteers have helped the Jaycees with their events, Floyd said.
Originally a Monday-through-Saturday event, the carnival is usually held Tuesday through Saturday but was shortened last year to just run Wednesday through Saturday due to conflict with a Stoddard County fair.
The Cotton Carnival is back as a five-day event this year. "It starts on the 27th and it will end Oct. 1," Floyd said. The carnival will open at 5 p.m. during the week and at noon Saturday.
This year's carnival should also be bigger than last year's.
"We do intend to have more rides this year," Floyd said. Tinsley's Amusements was contracted to provide the rides once again.
"They have promised more rides this year and the midway should be bigger," Floyd said. "They're trying to bring in some new rides they haven't had here before, some bigger rides for the teenagers and the older group in addition to the kiddie rides."
Tuesday, Friday and Saturday will be wristband nights and Wednesday all rides will be $1.
In addition to fun, the Cotton Carnival is well remembered for its food. The American Legion's fish trailer will be at the same location as last year and will be open 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. for lunch before reopening at 4 p.m. for the carnival.
Additionally, the Sons of American Legion barbecue trailer and other food vendors will be on the midway to "give everybody a little variety of things to eat," Floyd said. "We always welcome our non-profit organizations out there - we always try to make room for everybody."
Security for the event will again be provided by the Sikeston Department of Public Safety. "They always do a good job," Floyd said, "and code enforcement always comes out and checks the rides. Making sure everybody is safe is the main thing, and having a good time."
The Cotton Carnival will culminate with the state's largest parade at 10 a.m. on Oct. 1, followed 30 minutes later by the 2005 Cotton Carnival Queen contest.
"We're going to have a really good parade this year - we're going to have a lot of floats," predicted Geniece Kinder who designs the carnival's program book.
The American Legion's state commander, John Neger of Kansas City, is scheduled to be here for the parade as well as the American Legion's 40-8 of St. Louis and their "Blue Choo-Choo," according to Blair Moran, dignitaries chairman and parade co-chair for the Sikeston American Legion post.
The parade marshal will be Gene Stroud this year. "He will be honored for all his help and all the things he's done in the past for the American Legion, all his volunteer work," Floyd said.
The parade and program book share a theme this year, according to Kinder. "I think it's a real good theme: 'Honoring All Medical Professions Be It Military or Civilian'," she said. "They play an important role in military and civilian life."
The program book should be available beginning next week.
"I deliver those all over town, make sure they get out," Kinder said. "It has all the advertisements from the businesses in town and I put special articles in the program book concerning our flag, our military personnel and all our veterans."
This year's program book also features a special section called "Faces of Freedom," according to Kinder.
"It will have all the older veterans in it because we do honor our veterans," she said. "There's a real neat poem about the veterans for the 'Faces of Freedom.' It's real neat."
A veteran breakfast is also scheduled for Oct. 1 from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m.
"We appreciate all the support we've got from our past carnivals and hope it continues for our 61st year," Moran said.