clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Hold the deep fried candy bars — Illinois State Fair nixed over COVID-19 concerns

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.

Helen and Carroll Knoles of Springfield, ages 88 and 89, kiss on the ferris wheel at the Illinois State Fair as the Twilight Parade meanders through the fairgrounds in 2004, in Springfield.
Helen and Carroll Knoles of Springfield, ages 88 and 89, kiss on the ferris wheel at the Illinois State Fair as the Twilight Parade meanders through the fairgrounds in 2004, in Springfield.
Jonathan Kirshner/The State Journal-Register

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.

Then Gov. Jim Thompson and his daughter Samantha, 7, ride the Giant Slide during opening ceremonies at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in 1985.
Then Gov. Jim Thompson and his daughter Samantha, 7, ride the Giant Slide during opening ceremonies at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in 1985.
AP file

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.

House Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, top, and then Gov. Rod Blagojevich, bottom, attend the “Governor’s Day” rally at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in 2007.
House Mike Madigan, D-Chicago, top, and then Gov. Rod Blagojevich, bottom, attend the “Governor’s Day” rally at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in 2007.
Seth Perlman/AP file

“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.

A fair-goer points to the butter cow at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in 2004.
A fair-goer points to the butter cow at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in 2004.
Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register file

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.”

Republicans Bill Brady, from left to right, Ron Gidwitz, Jim Oberweis, and Steve Rauschenberger at the Illinois State Fair in 2005.
Republican Illinois gubernatorial candidates Bill Brady, from left to right, Ron Gidwitz, Jim Oberweis, and Steve Rauschenberger sit together during a Republican Day rally at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in 2005.
Seth Perlman/AP file