The Illinois State Fair kicks off in Springfield on Thursday with carnival rides, horse races, animal shows, live music, and a perennial favorite, the “Butter Cow.”
Governor JB Pritzker was present for the inauguration. Buttered Cow statue Wednesday afternoon. Sculptor Sarah Pratt’s work depicts a cow being milked by Orangeville dairy farmer Lorilee Schultz. The cow, which has been a fixture at the fair since 1922, celebrates Illinois dairy farmers.
“This year is the 170th anniversary of the Illinois State Fair, and while much has changed since our first fair in 1853, one thing has remained strong and unwavering: our state’s agricultural tradition,” Pritzker said at the ceremony. “A legacy we are proud of.”
The theme of this year’s show is “Harvest the Fun”, which highlights some of the multi-million dollar construction improvements made to the fairgrounds over the past four years.
These include the $8.6 million renovation of the fair’s multi-purpose arena and the ongoing rehabilitation of the 122-year-old Colosseum, a three-story, oval-shaped amphitheater that houses a showroom for horses.
Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello II said the renovations to the Colosseum include a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that will make the historic building suitable for year-round use. In addition, two elevators will be added to align with federal American Disability Act standards.
“I know we’re in a society of instant gratification, and you know, a lot of people want things done yesterday,” Costello said at a press conference about the show last week. “Construction and progress are gradual.”
Costello said about $65 million has been invested in upgrading the fairgrounds since 2019.
This year’s show features musical performances ranging from rap superstars Nelly and Ja Rule to classic rock legends Doobie Brothers and Champaign’s very own REO Speedwagon.
Other attractions at the fairground include a rodeo and a series of motorsport competitions including a monster truck show, truck and tractor towing, and a demolition derby. Harness races are scheduled for five days.
According to state fair manager Rebecca Clark, the fair will host “sunflower hours” from 9am to noon on Saturday for people with special needs who can enjoy certain events without bright lights and loud noises that can aggravate the senses.
Considered an essential stop for many fair-goers, The Vose Korndog stand will offer food offerings from pizza to barbecue chops at a single stand. Owner Bob Vose, who served on the Springfield City Council for many years and is known as the “Korndog King,” died earlier this year.
Also on the menu is copi, the rebranded name of Asian carp, which will be served in nuggets, sliders, rangoons and empanadas.
State officials also said they would designate “theme days” that include free admission for first responders, healthcare workers, veterans and their families, and senior citizens.
Elected officials will gather at fairgrounds for annual pep rally-type events, with Pritzker and other Democrats gathering for Governor’s Day next Wednesday, and the state’s top GOP politicians for Republic Day the next day.
The fair runs from Thursday, August 20th to Sunday, and tickets for musical performances are available from the fairgrounds or ticketmaster.com.
Regular admission to the fair will cost between $5 and $10, and anyone under the age of 12 can enter for free. Parking will be $5. Anyone who pays for parking at the fairground on Thursday will receive a voucher for free parking to be used next week’s Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
For more information on this year’s fair, visit statefair.illinois.gov/