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This summer's Illinois State Fair was a record-setter

NPR Illinois
NPR Illinois
NPR Illinois

The Illinois State Fair drew more than 700,000 people last month, a record setter according to officials.

The numbers show it was the most highly attended fair since industry standards were enacted, according to a news release.

“Once again, the hard work of the Department of Agriculture and hundreds of dedicated fair staff have resulted in shattered attendance records, serving as a testament to the value of our increased Fairgrounds funding and the spirit of Illinois,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “Attractions like the new Multi-Purpose Arena and our highly attended concerts drew in hundreds of thousands of fairgoers from across the state and the country, bringing our community together in an unprecedented way.”

“While mother nature will always be a driving force in attendance for any outdoor event, the 2023 Fair benefited from a return of programming at the newly renovated Multi-Purpose Arena (MPA), a result of Governor Pritzker’s $58.1 million dollar capital investment to address years of deferred maintenance on our historic state fairgrounds,” said IDOA Director Jerry Costello II.

The Illinois State Fair also unveiled new theme and discount days to enhance the fairgoer’s experience.

On Thursday, August 10, the Fair started with a full day promoting County Fairs and Horse Racing Day. On Tuesday, August 15th, the Fair discounted admission as part of the new weekday theme – TWOsday. This new promotion resulted in more than 27,000 additional fairgoers, officials said. The week also allowed for more opportunities for families to attend before the start of school.

“Enhancing the fairgoer’s experience is a vital part of the planning process,” said State Fair Manager Rebecca Clark. “Providing additional entertainment on Opening Day, exposing more Illinoisans to our state’s number one industry, and offering more ways for families to affordably enjoy the Illinois State Fair are priorities that proved to be a driving factor in the growth we experienced at the 2023 Illinois State Fair.”

The high attendance numbers reflect the second highest Grandstand tickets sold in the last five years; an 86% increase from 2021 ticket sales for events at the MPA which sat dark in 2022 due to construction; and record-breaking carnival revenue ($1.58 million) led by robust sales of Mega & Jumbo passes. Dry weather on the final weekend helped attendance at two popular auto races in the Grandstand.

Illinois State Fair

2023 State Fair Impact by the Numbers:

  • $89,800 in scholarships awarded to youth exhibitors
  • 600 new first-time exhibitors
  • 60 charities volunteered 20,000 service hours

Construction resumes this fall on Phase 2 of the Coliseum, which focuses on an electrical overhaul, underground plumbing, new seating, new restrooms, an elevator, and adding an HVAC system that will allow for year-round use.
Other projects slated to take place include:

  • $9.5 million: Road construction along 8th Street between the IDOA building and the IDNR building and along the backstretch on the northwest corner of the fairgrounds; provides funding to make structural improvements to the south pedestrian tunnel leading into the fairgrounds from Gate 6/infield parking;
  • $4.57 million: Roof replacements on the Junior Livestock Building, Sheep Barn, Hobbies Arts and Crafts Building, and at least three barns along the backstretch;
  • $11.9 million: HVAC replacements on the Orr Building, Illinois Building, Junior Livestock Building, Artisans Building, Hobbies Arts and Crafts Building, and Grandstand;
  • $2.99 million: Tuckpoint work in the Grandstand, Artisans, Hobbies Arts and Crafts, Emmerson and Block (IDOA headquarters) buildings.

Planning is now underway for the 2024 Illinois State Fair, which will run August 8-18.

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