Since 1855 the SEMO District Fair has brought together families from all over our area. This year marks the 169th year of the “Old Cape Fair,” and we’re excited as ever about the events, shows and competitions that make the fair great!


The United States was first an agricultural nation, and fairs were originally started to promote and improve the quality of farm products by encouraging farmers to develop new and better techniques in the raising of livestock and agricultural crops.

By an act of legislature, the Southeast Missouri District Agricultural Society was incorporated in 1855 to serve 23 counties of the region. Gen. Nathaniel W. Watkins of Jackson was elected the first president. The fair was held the first week in October at Cape Girardeau. The place selected was the Bierwirth’s farm, in a wooded grove on what is now South Frederick Street. The Fairgrounds were taken over by the United States as a campground for troops who were stationed at Fort C, the site of the old St. Francis Hospital on the corner of Good Hope and Pacific. The Army soon destroyed all the fair buildings, and the end of the Civil War left the grounds in an unusable state.

Another Act of Legislature revived the Agricultural Society in 1870 and a fair was held in 1870. A new site was selected farther west of the city near old Gordonville Road and Highway 61 South. The association purchased fifty acres, and one hundred more were soon added to the tract. Due to the declining interest and attendance, the old fair association we dissolved in 1897 and the fairgrounds were sold to the Blattner family.


The new leadership group, called the Cape Girardeau Fair and Park Association, was formed in 1900.

The association purchased forty acres of land at the present day site of Capaha Park. The Fair was located there from 1900 to 1929.

The First World War, followed by the Depression, caused the fair to be disbanded in 1929 and the board was dissolved once more. A revival of the fair was begun in February of 1939 with the organization of the present day Southeast Missouri District Fair Association. The Fair Association and the City of Cape Girardeau jointly own the property and parking areas that host the yearly fair, now held at the A. C. Brase Arena Building and surrounding land at Arena Park.


The SEMO District Fair is organized solely by volunteers and is governed by a board of directors elected from its membership and appointments from both the Cape Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson Chamber. Of utmost importance are the many volunteers who donate countless hours of their time away from their families throughout the year serving on various committees to plan, organize, and produce the fair. Many are from families that have been involved with the fair for generations. There are also judges, superintendents, exhibitors, and local community civic groups that contribute their time to help at the fair.

The Southeast Missouri District Fair is funded from the proceeds received from gate admissions and grandstand tickets, and would not be possible without the revenue received from numerous sponsors. The cooperation from the City of Cape Girardeau in producing each fair is vital to its success. No state or federal funds are involved in its production. The Southeast Missouri District Fair Foundation was created to receive donations for projects that contribute to the advancement of agriculture at the fair.

The fair is a member of the Missouri Association of Fairs and Festivals (M.A.F.F.). It is also a member of the International Association of Fairs and Expositions (I.A.F.E.), National Independent Concessionaire Association (N.I.C.A.), and the Outdoor Amusement Business Association (O.A.B.A). These organizations provide valuable resources of information about the betterment of fairs.

The SEMO District Fair has endured throughout 160+ years of history and more than one pandemic. We appreciate the continued support and attendance of the people that come to enjoy the rides, food, exhibits, shows, and the vast amount of entertainment and information and family fun at the fair.