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Democrat Day at State Fair to be a bit quieter this year

Gov. Rod. Blagojevich, left, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, center, join Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, during a rally at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006. File Photo. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

You can still munch on a corn dog, wash it down with a lemon shake-up and then head over to marvel at the Butter Cow.

But if Democratic stem-winders are more to your taste, don’t look to the Illinois State Fair this year.

A political tradition dating back at least half a century at the fair will look — and sound — a bit different this year.

When Democrats gather on the fairgrounds in Springfield for the 2017 version of Democrat Day, it will not feature the traditional mid-day political rally — a partisan powwow aimed at ginning up support for candidates and incumbents.

Mark Maxwell of WCIA-TV first reported the rally’s demise, and it was confirmed by Rich Miller of the Capitol Fax blog.

Steve Brown, a spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, the chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, said the rally wasn’t canceled because “nothing was ever scheduled in the first place.”

“The focus of Democrats on the 17th of August will be chairman’s brunch,” Brown said, adding that more than 1,000 attendees were expected.

The Democratic county chairman’s event is another longtime staple of the event. But it was always the outdoor rally, held on “The Director’s Lawn” that was the day’s centerpiece.

Mayor Richard J. Daley, waving, leads the Chicago contingent at Democrat Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, August 14, 1969. File Photo. | United Press International Wirephoto.

Every year, fair organizers set aside two days for Democrats and Republicans to hold speeches and other party events. The party that holds the governor’s office calls its day “Governor’s Day. This year, Aug. 16 is Governor’s Day, and August 17 is Democrat’s Day.

For Democrats, the big outdoor rally also took a backseat in 2016, when the Democrat Day breakfast was the backdrop for speeches meant to drum up party support.

The rally has also been the scene for some awkward moments over the years. In 2012, Gov. Pat Quinn — after being heckled by labor union leaders — mixed up the names of President Barack Obama and slain al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is shown as the the Flying Elvi perform behind him during Democrats Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2003. (AP Photo/ Illinois State Fair, David Blanchette)

Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, left, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, center, and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, right, confer while participating in a Democrats’ rally at the Illinois State Fair on Governor’s Day in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, Aug 19, 2009. File Photo. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Ten years earlier, then-candidate Rod Blagojevich was campaigning for governor and squabbling with Madigan. The speaker, who is also state Democratic Party chairman told reporters: “I don’t plan to get into any criticism of Blagojevich. I could do that. I could talk about his indiscretions, but I’m not going to do that because I believe in solidarity within the political party.”

Madigan never elaborated on what “indiscretions” he was talking about.

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama is surrounded by reporters as he attends a “Democrat Day” rally at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Ill., Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006. (AP File Photo/Seth Perlman)

Democrat Roland Burris addresses a crowd at a rally during Democrat Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield in 1997. File Photo. (AP Photo/Randy Squires, File)