Other safety measures at the Illinois State FairOther safety measures being taken include extra hand washing stations throughout the fairgrounds, cleaning of high-touch areas, and foggers on carnival rides and grandstand seating. There will also be free vaccinations available at six locations on the fairgrounds. State officials were forced to cancel the fair last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the first time the fair had been called off since World War II. But with vaccines now widely available, and with nearly 60 percent of the state’s population over age 12 now fully vaccinated as of Friday, according to IDPH, officials said they feel comfortable the fair can go off safely this year. “I think people are just done,” Illinois State Fair manager Kevin Gordon said. “I mean, they’re tired of sitting around for a year and they’re wanting to get out. Again, we emphasize and we encourage that everyone get vaccinated to come out. But we’ll make certain that everyone out here, when they do show up, will have a safe and have a fun time.”
Summary of eventsThe first major event of the fair actually happens Wednesday with the unveiling of this year’s butter cow. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the butter cow, a life-size display sculpted out of real butter that is typically fashioned around a timely theme. Masks will be required in the Dairy Building where the cow is housed. Gates to the fair officially open at 7 a.m. Thursday. Gov. JB Pritzker will join Costello and other state and local dignitaries for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. That will be followed by the Twilight parade at 5 p.m. Among the new attractions this year is a tribute to Route 66, which stretched nearly 2,500 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, winding its way through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California. This year marks the 95th anniversary of the establishment of that highway, one of the original roadways of the U.S. highway system. The “Route 66 Experience” at the fairgrounds will allow visitors to walk through exhibits commemorating the Illinois portion of the highway from Chicago to the Chain of Rocks Bridge and learn about communities and attractions along the route. The fair will also feature 13 stages with free entertainment ranging from live music to pig races, a water circus in which acrobats perform 40 feet above the top of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and an assortment of sword swallowers, fire breathers, and escape artists. Grandstand shows this year include country music performers Toby Keith, Kane Brown, and Sammy Hagar; comedian Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias; a Neil Diamond tribute band called the Traveling Salvation Show; a night of 90s music with Vanilla Ice and other artists; George Thorogood and others. Masks will be required for all grandstand concerts, and those in the grandstand track standing room only section will be required to provide a print or digital copy of vaccination records or a negative COVID-19 test result within three days prior to the event. A complete list of events and entertainment lineups is available on the Illinois State Fair website, illinois.gov/statefair.
Peter Hancock is the Statehouse reporter for Capitol News Illinois and held that position since January 2019. Hancock previously covered the state government in Kansas for much of two decades, including stints with the Lawrence Journal-World and Kansas Public Radio. He would also report for the Kansas Health Policy Authority and the Kansas Education Policy Report.