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Illinois State Fairs Canceled

Food-a-rama at the Illinois State Fairgrounds
Brian Mackey
Food-a-rama at the Illinois State Fairgrounds

The 2020 Illinois and DuQuoin State Fairs have been canceled.

In a video announcement posted to Facebook, State Fair Manager Kevin Gordon said the decision stems from wanting to protect people from contracting COVID-19.

“If the Illinois State Fair were to be held today it would not be the same fair you all have grown to know and love,” said Gordon. “And the bottom line is...the safety of our fairgoers is first and foremost and will not be compromised.”

However, the state lawmaker whose district includes the state fairgrounds in Springfield is not happy about it.

State Rep. Tim Butler, a Republican from the capital city, said he doesn’t agree with the decision because it harms the city’s already hurting economy.

“It’s hotel rooms, restaurants, it’s people coming into town, spending their day or spending a weekend in Springfield, and contributing to our economy,” said Butler. “It’s one of the cornerstones of Springfield.”

Butler said he offered ideas, including online entertainment and hosting horse races without the fans, to allow for social distancing while still offering state fair activities.

But Gordon said it isn’t feasible to put on a quality event and ensure the health and safety of fairgoers.

Butler also disapproves of how Pritzker made his decision to cancel the large event without notifying other members of the General Assembly first.

“The governor hasn’t yet understood how to collaborate on these issues, and try to do good things for the communities we both represent,” Butler said. “He could've put a group together to reimagine the state fair, and now we don’t have a state fair at all.”

Pritzker is set to issue an executive order canceling both fairs. In a statement, he said the state must prioritize keeping people safe.

“My administration, like those of our neighboring states, must make the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 fairs in light of the risk of COVID-19,” Pritzker said. “This is the right decision based on guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health, and other experts.”

The agriculture department is still planning to host a Junior Livestock Expo in Springfield in September, where exhibitors ages eight through 21 show off their farm animals.

Officials hoped the fair would rival the one last year, which set a record for revenue, bringing in $6.5 million and over 500,000 visitors.

Next summer’s fair is still scheduled to take place with more exhibits and upgrades to megapass and grandstand ticket options.

The 2021 Illinois State Fair will run from August 12 through August 22. The 2021 DuQuoin State Fair is scheduled for August 27 through September 6.

Those who have already purchased tickets for the 2020 State Fair can contact the State Fair Office at 217-782-6661 or email agr.fairinfo@illinois.gov for a refund.

Olivia Mitchell is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
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