The launch of a new not-for-profit, Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation was announced on Agricultural Day at the Illinois State Fair on August 16. The Governor applauded the foundation, which will emphasize capital improvements at the Springfield and Du Quoin fairgrounds.
The Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield includes more than 170 buildings spanning 360 acres of land, with buildings as old as 124 years. The Du Quoin State Fairgrounds includes more than 20 buildings spread across more than 1,200 acres of land, with buildings as old as 93 years. Many of the buildings on both fairgrounds are in dire need of restoration, including paint, plumbing, roofing, and structural repairs. Combined, the fairgrounds carry $180 million in deferred maintenance costs.
“The State Fair is the best place for Illinois to show off its products and accomplishments, and to ensure we can continue to do that, so that our children and grandchildren can continue on with this same tradition, we must preserve the State Fair experience and the legacy of its entertainment for generations to come,” said Governor Rauner. “A foundation is the best way to ensure that the fairgrounds get the upgrades and renovations necessary for these important assets. And it allows the fairgrounds to be less reliant on state money while putting no additional costs on the taxpayers. This is a win for taxpayers and the agricultural community as a whole.”
“As a life-long Springfield resident, I’ve had a front row seat to the deterioration of our state fairgrounds,” said Dept. of Agriculture Director Raymond Poe. “Years and years of deferred maintenance has taken a toll on our fairgrounds. The facilities in Springfield and Du Quoin are used 365 days a year, not just the 11 days of each fair. We need to stop ignoring these problems and start planning for the future.”
Leaders in the agricultural community established the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation to promote, support, assist, and sustain the Springfield and Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. The foundation will be led by a volunteer board representing a diverse cross section of the agriculture industry. Board members will engage with private sector business organizations and individuals to develop strategies to raise private funding, coordinate with the Department of Agriculture to plan projects and determine the Fairgrounds’ needs, and serve as ambassadors for the revitalization and improvement of the Fairgrounds and their agricultural heritage.
“I have had the privilege of working with Illinois companies and Illinois agri-businesses that support Illinois agriculture,” said board member John Slayton. “Over the years, these companies have contributed large chunks of money to help our youth exhibitors through the Governor’s Sale of Champions. There are companies in Illinois who are passionate about our state, our state’s number one industry, and our state fairs. Many of these companies currently donate to state fairs in other states because these states possess a vehicle to accept such donations. Now, with the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, we can keep Illinois dollars in Illinois supporting Illinois agriculture.”
"In past administrations the maintenance of the fairgrounds has been neglected, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in unmet infrastructure needs in Springfield and Du Quoin. I am pleased the agriculture community has created a foundation that will enable our private sector partners to help modernize and restore the greatness of these facilities," said State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington).
"I fully support the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation and its mission to raise private funds to help improve the infrastructure as well as promote the fairgrounds," said State Rep. Tim Butler (R- Springfield). "I anticipate the foundation will prove beneficial to the taxpayers, Springfield and the State."
In addition, Governor Rauner signed legislation into law to allow the Department of Agriculture to recognize farms and other agribusiness that have been in the same family for generations. House Bill 5790 expands the current Centennial and Sesquicentennial Farm Program to add Bicentennial Farms to list of those that can receive recognition. House Bill 4318 creates a new program to enable the Department of Agriculture to recognize agribusinesses that have been operated for 100 years or more or more than 150 years as the same agribusiness.
“This year’s fair theme is ‘Producing Our Future.’ Producing our future is not simply about looking ahead, but recognizing our storied agricultural history, how important this industry is to our great state, not just in the goods that we produce, but in the longstanding tradition and values it represents,” Gov. Rauner added.