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After 'Challenging' Year, Fair Officials Promise Safety

The coliseum at the state fair with flags waving above it.
Katherine Johnson / CC BY 2.0
'Structural deficiencies' prompted the closure of the Coliseum on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

The Illinois State Fair opens in one week. Years of budget cuts and deferred maintenance have led to a series of problems at the fairgrounds. But officials say they’ll be ready.

State Fair manager Kevin Gordon is not mincing words: “Honestly, the last year and half has been challenging. OK? I’ll be the first to say it.”

At last year’s fair, a flash-flood stranded people and damaged dozens of cars and motor homes.

Then, in the fall, the historic Coliseum was closed on account of “structural deficiencies.”

And last month, death and injuries occurred on a ride at the Ohio State Fair.

But Gordon says people can still feel safe.

“Our number one priority is the safety and well-bring of our fairgrounds," he says. "That is something that we would never, ever compromise."

Gordon says carnival rides will be getting extra inspections this year.

Because of the death in Ohio, state Department of Agriculture Director Raymond Poe says he thinks fair rides will be the safest they’ve ever been.

“It’ll be a double, triple effort to make sure that inspections are done right," Poe says. "So I think probably someone else’s hardships is going to make ours safer."

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Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
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