SPRINGFIELD — For the first time since World War II, Illinoisans will not be able to look forward to a summer filled with corn dogs, lemon shake-ups, the Butter Cow – or politicians trying to look at ease in their summer togs and wingtips at the state fair.
After suggesting the possibility weeks ago, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Friday he was pulling the plug on the Illinois State Fair in Springfield and the DuQuoin State Fair in deep southern Illinois, making them the latest events canceled because of public safety concerns over the coronavirus.
The decision drew the ire of some downstate Republicans.
It’s the first time the fair in Springfield has been canceled since 1945, the final year of a four-year hiatus during the second World War.
In addition to the typical carnival rides, deep-fried food, concerts and livestock shows – and a cow sculpted from butter — the Illinois State Fair was also famous for devoting a day to each of the political parties, allowing politicians to hold campaign pep rallies, ice cream socials and other partisan events.
“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,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Our state fairs are unmatched across the nation, and I look forward to gathering again to showcase the best of Illinois when it is safe to do so.”
Rep. Darren Bailey, who is suing the governor over his stay-at-home order, said the Chicago Democrat is sending a “totally inconsistent message” by canceling the state fairs because of the coronavirus while still attending protests against police brutality in Chicago.
“Let’s not forget that we sit here and we see the people at these protests — Gov. Pritzker, Mayor [Lori] Lightfoot and many others, representatives and senators from the Chicago area — walking arm-in-arm, side-by-side on a hot, sunny day protesting,” the Republican from Xenia said.
Republican Rep. Tim Butler, whose district includes the Springfield fairgrounds, said he recognizes the concern over COVID-19, but said he doesn’t know why the fairs couldn’t have gone on with social-distancing measures, such as hosting virtual concerts and livestock shows and limiting the number of vendors and visitors to the fairgrounds.
“I think the potential existed to think of this in another way, but the avenue was never there from the governor’s operation to have those discussions,” Butler said.
Responding to the Republicans, Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said, “The Governor is extremely disappointed that he has to cancel the state fairs, but he has and will continue to make the tough decisions to keep the people of Illinois safe.”