The Illinois State Fair kicked off in earnest yesterday afternoon. The State Fair’s management is hoping that lowered ticket and food prices and infrastructure updates this year will bring more people to the fair.
Last year, under 370,000 people attended the fair. That was down from over 400,000 who attended in 2017. The fair’s most sparsely attended day last year was Monday when under 25,000 people came. Weekend attendance was closer to 40,000.
Governor Pritzker was on hand yesterday to unveil the butter cow and today cut the ribbon for the opening of the newly-renovated State Fair Coliseum. After being condemned in 2016, the 118-year-old building was renovated around the clock to be ready for the fair this year. The 60,000 Square foot, three-story structure was originally constructed in 1901 byRV Evans Construction and has undergone numerous renovations over the years-including in the 1940s, 50s and 70s. Springfield-based R.D. Lawrence Construction Company was the general contractor on this $12.7 million project.
Fair Manager Kevin Gordon says all the improvements sticks with the theme of this year’s fair – “Building Our Future”: “That’s very evident once you step on our grounds out here this year. Look at all the construction that’s happened at the buildings and the refurbishment of a lot of our barns out here. We’re very excited about our fair this year. There are many new promotions and events. We’re just looking forward to having a wonderful fair.”
Tickets are still available for several of the grandstand concerts this year, with only Reba McIntire having sold out. Montgomery Gentry kicked off concerts last night with a free show. Vince Neil with 80s bands Vixen and Autograph at 8PM tonight.
Governor Pritzker said though that the fair is primarily about celebrating the state’s rich history of agriculture. “Three quarters of our state is farmland, and the State Fair is an opportunity to recognize and appreciate the 72,000 farm operations that make Illinois one of the nation’s most agriculturally productive states.”
The fair concludes next Sunday night August 18th.