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‘Ice cream-aholic’ Rauner and his dog unofficially open State Fair

SPRINGFIELD — He didn’t ride a horse like Gov. Edgar did.

Or shoot down the Giant Slide like Jim Thompson.

He didn’t even roar in on his Harley like he did last year.

But Gov. Bruce Rauner was on hand Thursday evening for the unofficial kickoff of the Illinois State Fair, marching in the Twilight Parade, shaking hands and posing for pictures.

Wearing a plaid shirt, jeans and boots, the rookie governor brought his beloved dog, Stella, along with him for the miles long walk.

“I love parades,” Rauner told reporters.

Asked what his favorite State Fair Food is, Rauner said “I’m an ice cream-aholic.”

Most in the crowd were friendly, but a few offered jeers.

One man, who declined to give his name, booed Rauner when the governor said, “I’m working for you.”

The man shouted back, “You’re working for the Koch brothers.”

The State Fair officially kicks off Friday, and Rauner is expected to attend the ribbon-cutting with Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, who is coming to Springfield with the Stanley Cup.

Some have questioned the propriety of putting on the beloved fair amid the budget stalemate in Springfield. An Illinois Department of Agriculture spokeswoman said grandstand acts, including Sammy Hagar and the band Styx, will be paid.

But vendors who provide services to the fair may see a delayed payment “due to the absence of a [fiscal year] 16 budget.” That doesn’t include food vendors, who pay the state for their space at the fair.

The fair’s famed political events — Governor’s Day for Republicans and Democrats Day for Democrats — are scheduled for next week.

House Speaker Mike Madigan, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois, has been a no-show at the fair in recent years, but he said the Dems will be there.

“We’re going to have some unique features,” he told reporters on Thursday. “And you might want to be there. We’d be happy to see you.”

Asked what his favorite fair food was as he left his weekly news conference, Madigan chuckled and plugged his famous lunchtime staple.

“Do they have apples out there?” he asked.

Gov. James R. Thompson and his daughter Samantha, 7, ride the Giant Slide during opening ceremonies at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in 1985. AP File photo.
Gov. James R. Thompson and his daughter Samantha, 7, ride the Giant Slide during opening ceremonies at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in 1985. AP File photo.
Gov. Jim Edgar gallops throught the Illinois State Fair grounds on Passion with Secretary of Agriculture Becky Doyle following behind after opening the state fair Aug. 14, 1998, in Springfield, Ill. The fair with run through Aug 23. (AP File Photo/Seth Pe
Gov. Jim Edgar gallops throught the Illinois State Fair grounds on Passion with Secretary of Agriculture Becky Doyle following behind after opening the state fair Aug. 14, 1998, in Springfield, Ill. The fair with run through Aug 23. (AP File Photo/Seth Perlman)
Illinois Gov. George Ryan puts on an Illinois fire marshal’s cap after riding inside an antique fire truck at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2000. (AP File Photo/Seth Perlman)
Illinois Gov. George Ryan puts on an Illinois fire marshal’s cap after riding inside an antique fire truck at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2000. (AP File Photo/Seth Perlman)