The Du Quoin and Springfield state fairs are being canceled for 2020, a news release from the Illinois Department of Agriculture said on Friday.
The release said that Gov. J.B. Pritzker will issue an executive order canceling both fairs.
The order will come as a surprise to hardly anyone, as the governor's own five-phase "Restore Illinois" plan made it clear all along that Illinois would have to be in Phase 5 before either fair could be held. The state is currently in Phase 3.
"We know the Du Quoin State Fair is a long-standing tradition in southern Illinois and it's hard to fathom that it won't be taking place, but our first priority is to keep the citizens of southern Illinois safe," said Josh Gross, Du Quoin State Fair manager, in Friday's news release.
The 2021 Illinois State Fair will be held from Aug. 12 to 22; the 2021 Du Quoin State Fair is scheduled for Aug. 27 to Sept. 6.
The Du Quoin State Fair is estimated to be worth $6 million in revenue to the southern Illinois region, according to an economic impact study done a few years ago. That figure includes what visitors spend on motels, camping, gasoline, food, supplies and more.
Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois plan is when huge crowds are once again permitted to gather -- like the 600,000 total visitors who attended both state fairs last year.
But Phase 5 won't kick in until there is either a COVID-19 vaccine or highly effective and widely available treatment -- or the elimination of any new cases over a sustained period. Experts have said it could take a year to reach Phase 5.
"We've said from the very beginning our main concern is the health and safety of those who attend our state fairs," said Jerry Costello II, acting director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and a former southern Illinois state legislator.
"These aren't just fairs; they are economic engines for the Springfield and Du Quoin communities that highlight the best that Illinois has to offer and shine a spotlight on kids around our state," Costello added.
"These kids work all year to prepare for their livestock and projects, so we are determined to still provide them an event that showcases their hard work and perseverance through a very difficult year."
The cancellations have prompted the Department of Agriculture to develop a safe, creative way for youth exhibitors to still get a chance to showcase their hard work.
In September the Department of Agriculture will host a Junior Livestock Expo in Springfield for Illinois exhibitors ages 8-21. Meanwhile, the 4-H General Project Show will take place virtually, with premiums and ribbons to be distributed by the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Details regarding entry and operations are forthcoming.
"The Illinois and Du Quoin state fairs have been some of my favorite opportunities to celebrate our agricultural communities and the residents who make Illinois so exceptional," said Pritzker in the release.
"But it's because the fairs are such a treasure to so many thousands of people that my administration, like those of our neighboring Midwestern states, must make the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 state fairs in light of the risk posed by COVID-19."
Last year, the Illinois State Fair set records for the Grandstand and near record numbers for attendance. Officials were optimistic 2020 would rival the success.
At Du Quoin last year, attendance went up by 20% to 22%, authorities said, while actual gross receipts were down about $40,000 because the fair quit charging for admission.
2020 will mark the first time the Du Quoin State Fair has been canceled since the state of Illinois took over the grounds in 1986.
The Springfield state fair has been canceled a few times before, including from 1942-1945 when the fairgrounds were used as a U.S. Army Airforce supply depot.
The fair was also canceled in 1862 as the Civil War raged, and was replaced in 1893 by the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
"We are obviously disappointed that we will not be able to hold the 2020 Illinois State Fair," said Kevin Gordon, Illinois State Fair manager. "Our staff has been working hard to top what we did last year, and we feel like we were on track to do so."
People who have bought an Illinois State Fair mega pass, admission booklet or parking pass contact the State Fair office at (217) 782-6661 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.