Grab the mask and your vaccination card, or be ready to prove you don’t have COVID-19, if you plan to attend the concerts at the Illinois State Fair starting Thursday in Springfield. The annual fair is meant to highlight Illinois agriculture, the state’s largest industry with a $19 billion economic impact. With agricultural competitions and exhibits comes a lot of fair food, carnival rides and concerts. Gov. J.B. Pritzker canceled last year’s fair amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, State Fair Manager Kevin Gordon sees large crowds at fairs across the country and predicts the same for Illinois.
“I think people are just done, they’re tired of sitting around for a year and they’re wanting to get out,” Gordon said after a presentation for the media previewing aspects of the fair.
During his presentation, Gordon talked about the range of carnival rides, food and free entertainment throughout the fair. Crowds mulling around getting corn dogs or riding rides won’t have to wear masks, but is encouraged by the Illinois Department of Public Health. During Friday’s presentation to the media, Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Jerry Costello offered other mitigation.
“We will be following CDC guidelines, so what that means is masks will be required indoors,” Costello said.
Some parts of the fair – displays of winning agricultural products to vendors selling their products, art exhibits and the famed butter cow, which will be unveiled Wednesday – happen indoors, as do the livestock shows in the Coliseum. Other buildings requiring masks include the Expo Building, Illinois Building, Dairy Building, Livestock Center, Artisans Building, Emmerson Building, Orr Building, Hobbies, Arts & Crafts and the Floriculture/Emmerson Annex. IDPH also announced concert goers in the grandstand will have to mask up. Those close to the stage will have to show proof of vaccine or proof of a negative test. There are performers with ticketed shows at the grandstand beginning Thursday.
“A first ever, Thursday night, we have a paid concert this year and Sammy Hagar will be kicking off for us,” Gordon said, expecting up to 9,000 people.
Other acts in subsequent nights include Kane Brown, Toby Kieth and Bret Michaels with Dee Snider. Other announced mitigation efforts include vaccination and testing stations, no tram service, and masked carnival workers. The eleven-day fair begins Thursday Aug. 12 in Springfield and runs through Sunday Aug. 22.