Jesse closed her eyes slowly, as if she were beginning to feel a bit tuckered out by the late morning heat.
Even though the 8-year-old palomino stood under a shade tree and had plenty of water and hay at her disposal, it seemed that working and standing around a few hours in the heat were taking a toll on her and owner Ellen Weeks.
Weeks had hauled her horse Saturday morning from her home in Holt, Mo., to show between 9 and 10 a.m. on the last day of the 149th annual Platte County Fair.
“We’ll leave right after noon, before it gets too hot,” said Weeks. “It is not worth it in this heat. At first I didn’t even think we would come because I worried about the horses. I’m glad the horse show is early.”
By noon it was Jesse’s usual nap time. Besides, she’d done what she’d come for, earning a pink ribbon for her performance in the showmanship class.
Weeks and organizers of the horse show portion of the fair said it was obvious that a lot of people had opted not to come this year.
“No doubt in my mind a lot of people didn’t come because of the heat,” said Kay Clark, who runs the horse show for the fair.
She didn’t have attendance figures but she said “the numbers are definitely way down this year.”
Marcia Hankins of Platte City canceled last Thursday’s mule show because of the heat. It was the same day an 11-year-old llama was found dead in a pen at the fair’s petting zoo, although it was not clear if the heat had contributed to its death.
“What most folks don’t understand is these animals are hauled here from wherever in a metal trailer that’s like being in a big, hot tin can,” Hankins said. “When I told people we were canceling, they were happy because they don’t want to do anything that’s not good for their animal.”
Hankins hopes to hold the show later this week but is doubtful because the forecast is for temperatures above 100 degrees practically the entire week.
“If it’s not hot, it’s not the Platte County Fair,” said Wayne Lewis, whose shirt was soaked with sweat as he announced the morning’s kids events — sack races, egg toss, hay toss.
This year is even hotter than usual.
Last year by mid-July the area had seen four days with temperatures at 100 degrees or above. This year, July has seen eight days with temperatures of 100 degrees or more, and every day but one so far has been above 90 degrees, said George Amis of the National Weather Service.
Forecasters say temperatures this week could reach 107, Amis said.
No precipitation is in the forecast until Thursday. It’s very dry in the area, and rainfall in Kansas City is now just 33 percent of what’s normal for spring and summer.
The Missouri Highway Patrol has warned motorists not to toss cigarette butts from their vehicles.
“Even the smallest amount of the extremely dry grass throughout the state quickly can become a dangerous fire,” patrol officials said Saturday morning, adding that discarding a cigarette butt is littering, a Class A misdemeanor.