No state fairs this year in Illinois
SPRINGFIELD -- State fairs in Springfield and Du Quoin will be canceled this year by executive order of the governor due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state made the announcement Friday afternoon in a news release, noting the decision "has prompted the Department of Agriculture to offer a safe, creative way to ensure youth exhibitors still get a chance to showcase their hard work."
That will come in the form of a Junior Livestock Expo in Springfield in September. Illinois exhibitors ages 8-21 can show their animals at that event. The 4-H General Project Show will take place virtually, with premiums and ribbons distributed by the ag department, according to the news release. Entry details for the events are forthcoming.
The Du Quoin and Springfield fairs attracted more than 600,000 visitors combined in 2019 and are scheduled to return in August 2021. Last year, the Springfield Fair set records for the grandstand and near record numbers for attendance.
"The Illinois and Du Quoin state fairs have been some of my favorite opportunities to celebrate our agricultural communities and the residents who make Illinois so exceptional," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a news release. "But it's because the fairs are such a treasure to so many thousands of people that my administration, like those of our neighboring Midwestern states, must make the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 state fairs in light of the risk posed by COVID-19. This is the right choice based on guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health and other experts: we have to prioritize keeping our people safe."
State Rep. Tim Butler, a Springfield Republican, took issue with the governor's unilateral decision to cancel the fairs by executive order.
"I am tremendously disappointed the governor has canceled the 2020 Illinois State Fair," Butler said in a statement. "Through state law, the General Assembly has mandated that Illinois shall have state fairs in Springfield and Du Quoin. This decision is yet another one in which the governor has exceeded his authority during the pandemic and will be in violation of state law."
While Butler said he "fully understands" the health impact of COVID-19, he added "this cancellation is another serious blow to the economy of central Illinois."
"Springfield's economy has been hit especially hard due to the cancellation of most of the General Assembly's spring session, the shutdown of facilities such as the Bank of Springfield Center and State Fairgrounds, and the closure or work-at-home duties of most state government offices," he said.
The cancellation of the Springfield Fair is the first since 1942-1945, during which period the fairgrounds were used as a World War II Army Airforce supply depot, according to a news release. The Springfield Fair was also canceled in 1862 due to the Civil War and was replaced in 1893 by the World's Columbia Exposition in Chicago.
This year will mark the first time the Du Quoin Fair has been canceled since the state took over the grounds in 1986.
"We've said from the very beginning our main concern is the health and safety of those who attend our state fairs," Jerry Costello II, acting director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said in a news release. "These aren't just Fairs; they are economic engines for the Springfield and Du Quoin communities that highlight the best that Illinois has to offer and shine a spotlight on kids around our state. These kids work all year to prepare for their livestock and projects, so we are determined to still provide them an event that showcases their hard work and perseverance through a very difficult year."
Those who have purchased an Illinois State Fair mega pass, admission booklet or parking pass can call (217) 782-6661 or email email@example.com.
Illinois remains in Phase 3 of its COVID-19 reopening plan until at least June 26, during which time gatherings of only up to 10 people are allowed.
Gatherings of more than 50 people would not be allowed until Phase 5, but entry into that phase is not allowed without "Vaccine, effective and widely available treatment, or the elimination of new cases over a sustained period of time through herd immunity or other factors," according to the governor's Restore Illinois reopening plan.