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Illinois State Fair kicks off August 12

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Milkshakes, music, and deep-fried everything!

Large crowds of family and friends will head to Springfield next month. The Illinois State Fair officially returns August 12-22. Organizers canceled the annual event last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was 90 and sunny in Springfield on Wednesday, so it almost felt like August and the return of summer fun at the fairgrounds. 2021 is also the 100th anniversary of the butter cow, so many people will want to check out the Dairy Building.

The state fairgrounds were much quieter last year, but there's been plenty of work behind the scenes. Crews worked on a partial roof for the auditorium in the Illinois Building. They also finished a new roof for the Expo Building. They're also putting down a 27,000 square foot asphalt pad for the Department of Agriculture's tent space. Fair Manager Kevin Gordon says that will play host to more educational and interactive exhibits.

But don't forget about the food and carnival rides. Gordon says his staff tracked the success of other fairs across the country to see what they can expect when the Illinois event kicks off next month.

"What we're seeing is increases in attendance, carnival revenues, and everything that goes along with the fair which is wonderful. I think what that indicates is that obviously people are ready to get out of the house," Gordon said.

He noted ticket sales are also going well for the Grandstand concerts featuring Toby Keith, Brett Michaels, and the I Love the 90's Tour, among others. 

People won't need their temperature checked at the gates, and masks won't be required. However, Gordon encourages unvaccinated adults and those under 12 to have masks on.

"That could also change. We're governed by the Illinois Department of Public Health and also Sangamon County. Any mitigations or safety rules that they have in place at that point are the ones we'll do our best to enforce. We'll make sure that happens," Gordon added.

Grounds and building crews are working hard to have everything ready in time for guests.

"They're also going to be out here obviously every single day of the fair making certain that the high-touch areas are cleaned frequently. It will be a very safe place for our fairgoers to come out to this year," Gordon said.

Fans of the Mother Road will enjoy a new Route 66 experience in the Gate 2 area. It will take the place of the popular interactive kid's zone called "Farmer's Little Helpers." The new space will tell the history of Route 66 and display a map of the highway along the fenceline.

People can also enjoy a STEAM Expo this year with state-of-the-art technology. Gordon explained the exhibit will feature E-sports and robotics competitions. He said many will also enjoy the drone race planned for August 20.

The Department of Agriculture also hopes to hire 600 employees to work the state fairs in Springfield and DuQuoin. Workers are needed to cover maintenance, customer service, ticket sales, and security, among other jobs. Seasonal employees make $11 per hour.

Those interested can find the application here.

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Mike Miletich

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