New foundation will emphasize state fairground improvements
The focus of a new, not-for-profit Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation will be to emphasize capital improvements at the state fairgrounds in Du Quoin and Springfield.
“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,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said in a news release.
“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.”
The Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield include more than 170 buildings spanning 360 acres of land, with buildings as old as 124 years.
The Du Quoin State Fairgrounds include 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.
Illinois Department of Agriculture director Raymond Poe said that many years of deferred maintenance have taken a toll on the 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 Illinois 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.
In addition, the governor signed legislation into law to allow the Illinois 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 the 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.