By TIM ALEXANDER
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois State Fair in Springfield, running from Thursday, August 11 through Monday, August 21, will feature five days of harness racing and a diverse, star studded grandstand lineup. This is according to State Fair Director Rebecca Clark, who placed an extra emphasis on Illinois’ status as a top breeder of race horses by placing harness racing front and center during the 11-day fair run.
“It’s really exciting to introduce harness racing, which is really Illinois agriculture, to a whole new crop of fairgoers. Our first post time is at noon on Thursday (Aug. 11), and thanks to our partnership with the Illinois Beef Association (IBA) the first 100 kids with their parents will go home with a super-cute, galloping stick horse. We’ll also have a free ice cream social from noon-1 p.m. for those who come out and watch harness racing with us.”
More harness racing was on tap for Thursday, with Illinois-bred trotters showcased in races from 5 to 8 p.m. In all, five days of harness racing are scheduled throughout the fair.
“County Fairs and Horse Racing Day is on Friday, August 12. Not only do we have harness racing, but we welcome all of the Illinois County Fair Queens from throughout the state to a luncheon. It’s important that we do our part in supporting our county fair network. County fairs are economic drivers for their communities, rooted in tradition with stories and memories that last a lifetime,” said Clark.
Tuesday, August 16 is Ag Day at the Illinois State Fair, whose 2022 theme is “Grow With Us.” Illinois agriculture, which is featured throughout the fair, enjoys a special spotlight on this day. Grand champion junior livestock and poultry are auctioned at the Governor’s Sale of Champions, and the best of Illinois processed foods are auctioned at the Commodity Auction.
In addition, the Illinois Specialty Growers Association will return with their Illinois Foods booth located inside the Illinois Department of Agriculture Tent. Apple cider slushies, sweet corn and Illinois-produced food and beverage items will be offered for sample and sale within the tent.
A special Ag Day Breakfast will be held at the fair, followed by a discussion on ag policy initiatives with members of the IBA, Illinois Corn, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Milk Processors Assoc., Illinois Pork, Illinois Soybean and Illinois NREC.
The Illinois Pork Producers Association will return with their popular “Piglets on Parade” birthing center, located near the Coliseum, and will again host their popular Pork Patio food concession tent. The IBA will also offer steak sandwiches and other beef-based meals in their tent adjacent to the Pork Patio.
Grandstand shows kick off on Thursday, August 11 with Sam Hunt as the featured entertainer. Demi Lovato takes the stage on Saturday, August 13, followed by Brooks and Dunn (Sunday, Aug. 14), the Ides of March (free Monday concert), Willie Nelson and Family (Tuesday, Aug. 16; Agriculture Day), TLC and Shaggy (Wednesday, Aug. 17), Jon Pardi (Thursday, Aug. 18), Trevor Noah (Friday, Aug. 19), Disturbed (Saturday, Aug. 19) and Sammy Hagar and The Circle with Ann Wilson (Sunday, Aug. 20).
“We really set out this year to provide something for everyone,” said Clark. “We’ve got rock, country, pop and comedy…being diverse in our lineup is really important because not everyone likes country music and not everyone likes pop. So we are really trying to appeal to our diverse fairgoers.”
Clark said fair organizers strove to keep prices reasonable for working families in light of current inflationary conditions and high fuel prices. “Everybody is saddled with higher fuel prices and higher cost of living. We’re committed to holding the line on prices, so this year there are no price increases at the gate,” said Clark. “Adults are still half price ($5 admission) Sunday through Thursday, and kids are free every day of the fair. And there is no increase in the price to park.”
According to a 2013 economic impact study (the last year a study was conducted), the Illinois State Fair generated around $85 million in total revenue, of which around $35 million was in wages and salaries. “The state fair generates from $2 million to $5 million in sales tax revenue, depending on the weather that year,” according to Clark. adding that food discounts have been added during certain hours of the fair. New this year is the Small Plates, Big Tastes program that allows fairgoers to sample smaller portions of international cuisine from the Village of Cultures for just $3 per item.
Though specific information has not yet been released by the Midwest Dairy Council, a sculptor is at work on the 2022 State Fair Butter Cow, which will be on exhibit in the Prairie Farms Building during the fair. For a complete schedule of Illinois State Fair activities, grandstand entertainment and events, along with directions and parking information, visit www2.illinois.gov/statefair/info.