The biofuel capital of Missouri welcomed hundreds of visitors for the town’s annual Soybean Festival. The Mexico area is surrounded by crops, and as harvest season nears, the town has reason to celebrate.
“The soybean harvest is such a big part of Mexico,” said event organizer Josh Frantz, a member of Jaycees Mexico. “This festival is a good way for the community to thank all the farmers for everything they do for us.”
Lower-than average rainfall has left corn crops and livestock suffering in a state that ranks third in U.S. agricultural trade and sixth in soybean production, according to export.gov. The infrastructure and economy of Mexico relies on agriculture. The soybean crop has been less affected by the weather changes, and locals attending the festival remain in high spirits.
“We’ve had a few timely rains that have helped out,” farmer Dale Brinker said. “The crop is doing pretty good considering. It’s not going to be a fantastic crop, but it’s going to be better than it could’ve been with all this dry weather.”
Despite this weekend’s sweltering heat and high humidity, people gathered downtown for the festival. Mexico seemed to be bursting at its seams with activity. Monroe and Jefferson streets are lined with local vendors, carnival rides and nice cars. Activities included a car show, parade, live music and a beer garden.
“Most events are usually away at a fairground or someplace,” Frantz said. “That’s the good thing about having it [the festival] downtown, it brings people in. It gives a lot of local businesses around the square exposure they haven’t seen before. We’ve had a lot of new businesses downtown, especially restaurants.”
Food was one of the main attractions at the event. Dozens of food trucks emanated smoke and smells. Lines of twenty people or more queued in front several trucks at a time.
“BBQ nachos and beef nachos are two of our biggest things,” said Becky Steinman owner of Steinman Banquet and Catering. “ It brings out a lot of people from the community; gets people to try your food. We will usually have a line from the time we open to the time we close.”
The billowing grills were not the only thing to see on the street. As the relentless sun began to set, live music took the center of Graf & Sons mainstage on the east side of the courthouse in the Mexico Square. Various Missouri-based bands played Friday and Saturday nights.
Once the music began at 6 p.m., the streets emptied and the square filled in as children, parents and teens took to the dance floor in front of the stage. The Comancheros, a Columbia-based rock and folk band, started the weekend off with the first set Friday night.
“I’m really glad that I grew up here,” lead guitarist Bradley Hutchinson said. “I always like playing here, and the footlong corn dogs are hard to beat. Mexico in general is celebrating their farmers. They’re humble and hard working people. We wouldn’t be able to survive without our farmers.”
The Soybean Festival has held different events and attractions since the festival began more than 20 years ago, but many of those in attendants come to see the same friendly, familiar faces every harvest season.
“We come here every year,” Carl Hurst said. “We’ve been married for fifty years next month, and we put this on our calendar every year. We cruise the back roads every September and October in our Mustang, visit local diners, but the Soybean Festival is a must attend. We have friends from all over come down here every year, too.”
Frantz said the community should expect the festival to be scheduled later into harvest season next year. With any luck, the community will have the chance to celebrate more rain and a bountiful harvest.