Kevin Gordon

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois 91.9 FM

Ahead of the start of the Illinois State Fair next week, organizers say they’re optimistic about attendance and attractions. But the fair’s success is an open question.


Illinois State Fair crowd
flickr/Randy VonLiski - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

State fairgoers will get a break on admission, at least for part of this year's event.  The State Fair Manager Kevin Gordon announced today that daily admission will be lowered to $5 for adults on Sunday through Thursday.  That's half the regular price.  Senior admission will remain $3 and children 12 and younger get in free.  Gordon said the change is an attempt to make the fair a more affordable, family-friendly experience.  

Fair attendance was down 8% last year compared to 2017.  Many vendors complained about the slow foot traffic.

The coliseum at the state fair with flags waving above it.
Katherine Johnson / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

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.

Eric Mason, an 18-year-old Lanphier graduate, was recognized by the Illinois State Fair for overcoming incredible odds to become a high achiever.
Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

After 163 years, the Illinois State Fair is always adding traditions. New this year is the Hometown Hero Award, recognizing people who "perform selfless acts, overcome incredible odds and reach milestone achievements."

The inaugural winner is a teenager Eric Mason.

Eric just graduated from Springfield's Lanphier High School. And on Saturday, he left to begin college at Stanford University. That means he won't be around to partake in the glory, like joining the Grand Marshal to lead the Illinois State Fair Parade on Thursday, that comes along with being the "hometown hero."