(This story is written by Missourinet news director Brian Hauswirth and by Missourinet Clinton affiliate KDKD (FM 95.3) farm director Kyle Hill)

More than 350,000 people are expected to attend the Missouri State Fair, which begins Thursday in Sedalia.

The opening ceremony is set for Thursday morning at 10 near the Agriculture building on the state fairgrounds. The opening day parade will take place Thursday evening at 6 on Missouri State Fair Boulevard.

State Fair Director Mark Wolfe tells Missourinet Clinton affiliate KDKD Radio (FM 95.3) that staff members have scouted the grounds for any possible hazards.

“They come out every spring, spend several days here on the fairgrounds,” Wolfe says. “We look for everything from trip hazards to potholes to anything that we can find, they really look at the ground, the basic year-round grounds and the buildings here.”

Wolfe says the Highway Patrol will lead the public safety efforts at the 2017 fair.

“We also have local police and (Pettis) county deputies, those folks that work at the fair also, come out and do all of our physical security in terms of the buildings and locking the place up,” says Wolfe.

Wolfe says the fairgrounds feature a fully-staffed fire station, which also provides EMS service during the 11-day fair.

“We have kind of the world-famous set up with the only 11-day full-service fire station, fully-functional fire station in the world, so they come in with about 75 folks they have up to four engine companies on-site everyday,” Wolfe says.

The Missouri State Fair has seen impacted by severe weather several times over the years.

In 1952, a tornado struck the midway area, killing a carnival employee and causing about $700,000 in damage to 60 buildings on the fairgrounds. And in 2011 severe weather struck, causing damage to buildings. There were no fatalities in the 2011 storm.

Lieutenant Governor Mike Parson (R) encourages Missourians to attend the fair, saying that it “plays a critical role in promoting agriculture and showcasing the best of our great state.”

Agriculture is the fair’s main theme. A coalition called “Missouri Farmers Care” will hold a press conference Thursday morning at 10:45, outlining their efforts to feed hungry children.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) says about 350,000 people attended the 2016 State Fair.

The State Fair began in 1901, when two-thirds of Missouri’s population lived in rural areas.

At least four U.S. Presidents have visited the Missouri State Fair: William Howard Taft (1911), Harry Truman (1951), Ronald Reagan (1984) and George W. Bush (2004).