As I gaze into my crystal ball, I see nothing but elephant ears, corn dogs and livestock. Summer fair season must be approaching.
I am looking forward to another year of covering the various fairs here in Central Illinois which include several county fairs along with the Fairbury Fair, Cullom Junior Fair and Illinois State Fair. It seems more like summer now that I have received my universal fair passes from the Illinois Association of Ag Fairs (IAAF) in Springfield.
This year’s Central Illinois Farm Network “Fair Central” tour will include stops in the counties of Ford, Champaign, DeWitt, Iroquois, Livingston and Logan. I typically make an appearance at the Illinois State Fair in August but am not yet sure if I’ll make the trip down to DuQuoin. That seems like a long drive but one of these years, I will cover it.
County fairs seem to bring everyone together in the summertime as we tend to run into long-lost friends or catch up with an old classmate. They also give us a chance to see what the young people are doing through 4-H and other programs. If you sit through a swine, poultry or dairy show, you won’t be disappointed.
Back in 2014, University of Illinois Extension partnered with IAAF to survey fair attendees all across the state. The study showed $170 million was spent as a result of the more than 100 fairs in the state. Information also revealed that fairs provide more than economic gains for a community – they provide education about agriculture and plenty of family-friendly entertainment options.
Since state lawmakers approved a bi-partisan budget plan and the governor signed off on it, Illinois county fairs will receive $4.7 million, according to State Rep. Tom Bennett of Gibson City. He acknowledges this is very important to the ag industry in Illinois. Of that county fair money, $1.3 million is for fairgrounds rehab. As an added bonus, 4-H clubs in the state will receive $780,000.
Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Raymond Poe addressed the annual IAAF convention last January, saying county fairs represent an opportunity to showcase the state’s top industry.
“You guys share the great passion of agriculture as much as I do,” Poe said. “We’ll continue to fight for every dollar.”
(The View from the Cab blog is powered each week by Petersen Motors in Fairbury)