Overhaul proposed for state fairgrounds in Illinois

Illinois’ state fair season is five months away, but some people are already concerned about this year’s attendance.

Combined, the Du Quoin and Springfield state fairs have a $180 million backlog for repairs.

While the Illinois budget impasse may make those repairs uncertain, some in Springfield are confident those estimates could actually draw a crowd in the long run.

Downtown Du Quoin, Illinois, may not look much different from any other community, but Mayor Guy Alongi says it can be hard to find a parking spot during the state fair.

"It has a major impact to southern Illinois," said Alongi. "Most of the events that happen here help Marion, Carbondale, and Mt. Vernon reap the harvest."

Even after three straight successful years, there’s always room for improvement.

"I’d like to see more big-name entertainment," said Alongi. "It seems to me that we don’t get the first name entertainers like Springfield does or like the Indiana State Fair does."

In an effort to get more people up the stairs and through the gates, millions of dollars worth of improvements need to be made around the grounds and in the Grandstand. 

Fair spokeswoman Rebecca Clark says instead of a short-term fix, they’re looking at a long-term solution.

"Once a building reaches a certain age, you’re going to have those repairs that are needed in everyday maintenance," said Clark. "What the $180 million would do is completely overhaul our fairgrounds and make it a premiere event destination throughout the state."

"Renovations can wait another year, but I don’t think they can wait three or four more years," said Alongi.

These upgrades are included in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s capital proposal, but no funding can be allocated without a state budget.

To help the fairgrounds raise money, there is currently a bill working its way through the Illinois legislature.

It would allow for private donations and naming rights to be sold to help fund both state fairs.

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