ILLINOIS (WAND) - The 2020 Illinois State Fair will be canceled, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Pritzker will issue an executive order cancelling the event. The announcement was made on Friday.
"This was a decision made by the administration," said Jerry Costello, Director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. "Probably the tip of the spear for this decision is the Illinois Department of Public Health. The health and safety of the people of the state of Illinois and fairgoers has to be the #1 priority."
This is only the 6th time the fair has been canceled since its inception in 1853, and the first time since 1942-1945, when World War II forced it to be shut down. The fair was also canceled in 1862 because of the Civil War, and in 1893 when it was replaced by the World's Columbia Expo in Chicago.
The Du Quoin State Fair will also be canceled in 2020, marking its first cancellation since the state took over the grounds in 1986.
“The Illinois and Du Quoin State Fairs have been some of my favorite opportunities to celebrate our agricultural communities and the residents who make Illinois so exceptional,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “But it’s because the fairs are such a treasure to so many thousands of people that my administration, like those of our neighboring Midwestern states, must make the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 State Fairs in light of the risk posed by COVID-19.
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. 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.”
"These are unprecedented times, and this was the most prudent decision," Costello added. "The state of Indiana, the state of Ohio, Minnesota... they've cancelled and we're absolutely one of the last states to make this decision."
Valera Yazell, Springfield's Director of Economic Development, told WAND she understands the decision, but laments that the cancellation will be a huge blow to the area economy.
"There's so many vendors that come into the city for the state fair, and they depend on that income for themselves for those 10 days," she said. "And then of course we have hotel/motels that are generally booked 100% for all of those 10 days."
And State Representative Tim Butler (R-Springfield, 87th District) says he thinks Governor Pritzker threw in the towel too quickly.
"I think the potential was there to reimagine the state fair in this kind of this world this year," Butler told WAND. "It's a big hit to the prestige and the psyche of the people of Springfield. The state fair is a part of who we are in Springfield and Central Illinois."
People who purchased an Illinois State Fair mega pass, admission booklet or parking pass and need a refund are asked to contact the State Fair office at (217)782-6661 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next Illinois State Fair is scheduled for Aug. 12-22, 2021. The next Du Quoin State Fair will run from Aug. 27-Sept. 6, 2021.