Illinois State Fair


It's perhaps the most recognizable symbol of the Illinois State Fair.  And due to the state budget gridlock, no payment has been made to the sculptor.

Credit Flickr/aka_kath

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has accepted the resignation of the state's Agriculture Department director and the director of the state fair.  

The resignations of Phil Nelson and Patrick Buchen were announced late Thursday. The reasons for their resignations were not given. 

  Birds from out of state are once again welcome within Illinois' borders. They'd been banned from fairs and exhibitions.

If you noticed the price of eggs going up this summer - there's a reason. Several states' bird populations were hit -- hard -- by avian flu. Wild birds, captive ones, and commercial and backyard poultry. But no cases were detected in Illinois.

Agriculture officials here reacted by trying to keep visiting birds, like chickens, out of places like the Illinois State Fair.

This week, debate over whether Illinois municipalities should have the option to declare bankruptcy, mandatory state spending continues despite no agreement on a budget, and some odd numbers from this year's state fair.  The Chicago Tribune's Monique Garcia joins the panel.

Despite great weather, Illinois' State Fair, which fell later in August than usual, saw a huge decline in attendance.

At the state fair's kickoff earlier this month, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced his love of the event.

"I hope everybody in Springfield, everybody around the state, come on out," he said just before the fair's opening parade.

Instead, figures show attendance fell by half. The state says 411,500 people went through the fair's gates, versus the 847,000 who showed up last year.

Amanda Vinicky / WUIS - Illinois Issues

While presidential candidates seemed as prevalent as funnel cakes at the Iowa State Fair, none stopped by Illinois'.

A Democratic Party leader says Hillary Clinton was invited to its political events in Springfield. Instead, Clinton had surrogates speak on her behalf, including Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

"Hillary Clinton is a leader, she is a fighter, she is a friend and having grown up in Park Ridge, Illinois, she is one of us," Madigan said.

Politicians and the party faithful flocked to the Illinois State Fair this week, with both Democrats and Republicans defining the continuing budget impasse as an epic struggle.  However, the struggle remains static, with no work toward an agreement.  Becky Schlikerman of the Chicago Sun Times joins the panel.

Democrat Day 2015
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois Democrats say they're in an "epic" struggle with the state's new Republican governor. The party met in Springfield Thursday for its annual fundraising breakfast and State Fair rally.

The afternoon rally began with a tongue-in-cheek thank-you to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

"Why am I here to thank Bruce Rauner?" asked state Rep. Lou Lang, from Skokie. "Look around you — the Democratic Party has never been as energized or as organized as it is right now."

Amanda Vinicky

Illinois Democrats say their party is strong and more energized than ever, thanks to Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. 

The day after Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner accused them of holding up progress, hundreds of Democrats packed into a ballroom rose to their feet when Senate President John Cullerton said "We are willing to work with Gov. Rauner, but we don't work for Gov. Rauner, okay?"

Democrats were in Springfield for their annual state fair gathering.

Amanda Vinicky

Gov. Bruce Rauner's November election victory landed his party a summer prize Illinois Republicans haven't had in dozen years --- the pride of having Governor's Day at the Illinois State Fair. But Rauner's day of political revelry Wednesday ended with a stinging defeat.

Amanda Vinicky

A budget impasse lingers, but hasn't interrupted politicians' big rallies at the Illinois State Fair. Democrats will have their chance tomorrow but today was Republicans' chance.

Republicans are still relishing capturing the governor's office for the first time in a dozen years.

"Are you guys ready? I don't see you guys standing! We need to be lit for this," Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti said, as she introduced Gov. Bruce Rauner, prompting the crowd to rise to their feet.

Should the Illinois State Fair raise more private money?

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Governor Bruce Rauner officially opened the Illinois State Fair Friday morning. But there is still no state budget in place, and Rauner would not say how Illinois is paying for the fair.

There were all the trappings of the usual fair grand opening: politicians, a Lincoln impersonator, a ribbon cutting.

But an impasse between Rauner, a Republican, and Democratic majorities in the legislature means Illinois has no legal authority to pay for the fair. Rauner, however, refused to answer questions about that — or anything else.

Rocky Wirtz and the Stanley Cup at the Illinois State Fair
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The owner of the Chicago Blackhawks was in Springfield Friday for the ribbon cutting that opens the Illinois State Fair. But he's refusing to talk about the investigation into one of the team’s star players.

Hawks owner Rocky Wirtz was the at fairgrounds’ main gate to present the Stanley Cup.

He spoke briefly at the podium, thanking officials for inviting him, but later would not say much about the ongoing rape investigation into star player Patrick Kane.

Food-a-rama at the Illinois State Fairgrounds
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Top political leaders say Illinois' lack of a budget won't put a dent in plans for the upcoming Illinois State Fair.

The fair in Springfield is set to kick off with the twilight parade on Thurs., Aug 13. When asked if there's a chance a budget will be in place by then, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan responded by saying it's possible.

"If everybody’s reasonable, and everybody functions in moderation and not in the extreme," he said last week. "And since we’re in continuous session..."

Food-a-rama at the Illinois State Fairgrounds
Brian Mackey / WUIS

The Illinois State Fair will go on next week. That’s even though the budget stalemate has left officials without the means to fully pay for it.

If you go by the book, state government executives aren’t supposed to spend money unless the legislature specifically authorizes it. But the standoff between the Republican governor and Democratic legislative leaders has meant there is no budget.

Nevertheless, state fair leaders say they’ll find a way to make sure the show goes on.

Philip Nelson
Brian Mackey / WUIS

Illinois officials say the threat of bird flu required limits on poultry at this year’s Illinois State Fair.

This strain of avian influenza entered the U.S. last December. So far it’s infected flocks in all the states surrounding Illinois.

State Department of Agriculture Director Philip Nelson says it’s resulted in 48 million birds either dying or being killed. Because of that, he says bird exhibitions at the state fair will be limited to Illinois birds.

“We’re doing it as a precaution, for the most part just to protect our poultry industry in this state," he says.


The state fair in Springfield and the Du Quoin State Fair are scheduled to begin in August. But if there is no state budget in place, it's unclear how entertainment and vendors would be paid.


Gov. Bruce Rauner is moving ahead with plans to hold the Illinois State Fair next month, despite the fact that there is no budget in place to pay for it.  

flickr/Stephen Woods

The Illinois Department of Agriculture is banning out-of-state birds from exhibitions and fairs around the state to help stem the spread of a deadly bird flu that's hit nearby states.  

The restriction announced Friday includes county fairs, FFA and 4-H fairs and the state fairs in Springfield and DuQuoin.  

The agency says the bird flu hasn't yet been detected in Illinois. Agency director Philip Nelson says the restrictions are meant to protect the Illinois poultry industry and allow youths to show livestock at county and fairs this summer.  

Tim Landis and Bill Wheelhouse discuss the appointment of a new state fair director and what his charge may be.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, taffy and politics at the Illinois State Fair.

Hannah Meisel

Politicians are supposed to apologize when they mess up, but typically that doesn't involve saying "I'm sorry" to cows. That's what Governor Pat Quinn says his opponent's running mate needs to do.

Before Republican Bruce Rauner asked her to be his running mate, attorney Evelyn Sanguinetti had made inquiries about getting a job with the state.

Lee Enterprises newspaper reporter Kurt Erickson uncovered that inquiry; which was made via email, to state employee whom Sanguinetti supposedly went to law school with.

Hannah Meisel

  With summer coming to an end, and the November election getting ever closer, Gov. Pat Quinn and other Illinois Democrats gathered Wednesday in Springfield, for an annual party meeting and rally. But Thursday, Republicans had their day. The GOP hopes it'll be their year.

There's no "normal" way to get to the area on the Illinois State Fairgrounds where Republicans had their gathering.

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar says he's all in for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

Edgar says the Democratic agenda offers more of the same policies voters have seen for the past decade. He even equated Gov. Pat Quinn's tenure to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is now serving a 14-year term in federal prison.

"The Blagojevich-Quinn governorship has been a disaster for Illinois," he said. "We have an opportunity this November to end one-party rule by electing Bruce Rauner the governor of Illinois."

Amanda Vinicky

Even as states like Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin are known as political battlegrounds and bellwethers, Illinois has the reputation for being a solid "blue" state. Illinois sends double as many Democrats to Washington as it does Congressional Republicans. The state legislature tips heavily in favor of Democrats, who hold veto-proof majorities. And it has been more than a decade since a Republican last sat in Illinois' governor's seat.

Amanda Vinicky

For most of the thousands of people who go to the Illinois State Fair each summer, it's about fun -- the carnival rides, and corn dogs. But for others it's about competition. There are awards given for everything from longest ponytail to -- feminists, beware! --husband-calling. Not to mention the livestock events, which crown the best of the breeds. But what grabbed my attention was the "hobbies," where bakers, crafters and collectors have their chance at glory. First, they have to win over the judges.


The Illinois State Fair has postponed Monday's harness races because of unfavorable track conditions.  
The races will now be run Wednesday starting at noon.  

Nearly three dozen horses were quarantined briefly over the weekend because of concerns they may have been exposed to a virus.  
The (Springfield) State Journal-Register reports that officials lifted the quarantine Saturday, after the animals were cleared of having the equine herpes virus.

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  With the Illinois State Fair set to begin later this week, officials say they have safety in the forefront of their minds. The event, which attracts nearly 1 million visitors yearly, is set to open Friday morning ... though anyone can get an early preview Thursday evening after the annual opening parade.

State Week logo
Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, discussion of the so-called "Millionaire's Tax" advisory referendum on the November ballot.  Also, ethics violations at the State Fair.