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Illinois State Fair Scheduled To Go On, Despite COVID-19 Concerns

Mary Hansen
NPR Illinois

Every year, crowds of people flood the fairgrounds in Springfield anticipating entertainment at the Grandstand, corn dogs, shake-ups, and rides. But it’s unclear if the fair will go on this year. 

The Illinois State Fair is still scheduled for August, despite Gov. J.B. Pritzker encouraging planners of other big summer events to consider canceling. Pritzker said he knows a decision has to be made soon because contracts have to be signed, and organizers need time to prepare.

“I’m also just going to listen to the experts and make sure we do the right thing so that we don't spread this COVID-19, and that we don't have a spike in hospitalizations, and ultimately in people passing away,” the governor said.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture, which oversees the fair, said the health and safety of fair goers is their main priority, and they are working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health to determine the best course forward for the 2020 Springfield and DuQuoin State Fairs. 

Springfield’s Mayor Jim Langfelder said the state should take a wait-and-see approach. 

“There are certain things you would have to cancel like Grandstand acts, things of that nature, so there would be a point in time where you would have to make a firm decision,” Langfelder said.

Last year, the Grandstand set revenue records, bringing in a total of $2.3 million as performers like Snoop Dogg and Reba McIntyre graced the stage.

Langfelder said the city’s economy would suffer if the fair was canceled, but the restrictions are needed to respond to the pandemic. He said once the pandemic has run its course, and the curve is flattened, it’s important to be vigilant so COVID-19 numbers won’t ramp back up.

Brian McFadden, Sangamon County administrator, agrees with Langfelder about the city’s economy.

“It would have a large financial impact on the community and local governments if the fair is canceled,” McFadden said. “Right now, it’s hard to make an educated guess what we’ll be dealing with in August.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, the 2019 Illinois State Fair was the most successful in state history with over $6.5 million in estimated revenue and over 500,000 visitors.

If all goes as planned, the fair will take place on August 13-23.

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