You’ll find agriculture, fun rides, motorsports, harness races, live music, food and bicentennial beer at the Illinois State Fair, which opened Thursday in Springfield.
This year is the 165th state fair taking place during Illinois' 200th anniversary year. Fair manager Luke Sailer said the fair is a celebration of the state’s agriculture industry, but also a huge birthday party for Illinois.
“From Bicentennial Speaker Series to having the 1818 beer that we had [selected] here last year here now for sale,” Sailer said, “this is a great time to celebrate Illinois and Illinois agriculture with agriculture being the No. 1 industry in our state.”
This year’s Bicentennial Farm Family is the Wiseman family, who have been farming in Wabash and Belmont counties since 1818.
Gov. Bruce Rauner said the fairgrounds are looking up.
“We’re fixing it up,” Rauner said. “We got new roads, we got new paving, we’re fixing up the Coliseum. You know what, I’m so proud of this place.”
Lawmakers approved $30 million for the fairgrounds this year, but there’s millions of dollars more in deferred maintenance.
Rauner joked that when he lived on the fairgrounds for 13 months while the Governor’s Mansion was being renovated, he could have had a fundraiser for the Illinois State Fair Foundation.
“If we were a little more creative we would have thought to do a fundraiser for the fair foundation, we could have charged 10 bucks to look in our windows last year during the fair,” Rauner said. “We didn't think of that but we should have done it.”
The foundation reportedly raised only $32,000 in 2017. The estimated deferred maintenance at the fairgrounds in Springfield and DuQuoin is at $180 million.
Before joining Springfield-area officials to cut a ribbon outside the main gates and then purchasing a ticket to get in, Rauner sent out his invitation.
“We want people from all over the state, all over the country, come to Springfield, Illinois,” Rauner said. “One of the greatest fairs in the world, right here, right now. It’s a great time to celebrate, especially on our 200th birthday. 200 years of everything that’s great about our state. Everything born, built and grown in the state of Illinois.”
He said one thing people should try is a new roller coaster.
“We’ve got something now, first time, Crazy Mouse,” Rauner said. “The first time we got a roller coaster at the Illinois State Fair. Come ride the Crazy Mouse.”
The Illinois Department of Labor announced more than 60 rides throughout the fair have been inspected and will be inspected.
The fair runs through Aug. 19. It’s $10 for adults. Kids 12 and under are free. Parking on the fairgrounds is $5 daily.