Fairs not bad
Despite budget cuts, there should still be plenty to like at this years Illinois State Fair.
Will anyone notice that $700,000 less is being spent on this year's Illinois State Fair?
Most likely the answer will be "yes." Parking will be a buck more expensive (rising to $7), and some of the free concerts may no longer be free. But officials say any comparison to last year's fair isn't, well, fair.
Last year was the Illinois State Fair's 150th anniversary, and a certain amount of "extravagance" came with that, says spokesman Jeff Squibb. In 2002, for instance, organizers spent $200,000 more on free entertainment than in previous years. It didn't cost a dime to take in such acts as Lonnie Brooks, Koko Taylor, .38 Special, and the Little River Band. These performances were meant to promote the fairgrounds' new open-air arena as well as to raise awareness of the anniversary, says Squibb. While this year may not be better than last year, Squibb says, you shouldn't expect this fair to be worse than previous fairs--spending is only being reduced to what it was before 2002.
Spending on grandstand shows will be cut by $50,000, but at a glance it doesn't seem to have hurt much. Last year, the "big" shows were Englebert Humperdinck, Toby Keith, Journey, Kenny Chesney, and the Gin Blossoms (who canceled due to rain). This year, according to www.pollstar.com, which tracks concert tours worldwide, the grandstand line-up includes Kenny Chesney, Buckwheat Zydeco, Goo Goo Dolls, Lisa Marie Presley, Hootie and the Blowfish, Everclear, Mary Wilson, and Uncle Kracker. Not cutting-edge, but not bad for 50 grand less. Tickets to the big shows cost $17 to $22, Squibb says, and fair officials are considering charging $5 to $10 for the smaller arena's shows.
There will be a reduced fireworks display. The workforce will be cut from 177 to 106. Money for contest prizes and awards will be slashed from $573,000 to $268,000, though the number of contests won't decline.
"Our hope is that--and this is also my personal belief--competitors are not involved for the money, but for the thrill of competing in the Illinois State Fair and winning a blue ribbon," says Squibb. "We'd like the prize money to at least pay for the cost of entering."
It should be of some relief that not everything's been cut. "The high dive act will be bigger and better this year," Squibb says.
At least a million people attended each of the last three Illinois State Fairs. This year officials considered hiking the admission price from $3 to $5, but then decided against it. Illinois' state fair remains one of the cheapest in the country.
At the Grandstand
As of press time, fair officials had not yet released an official line-up of entertainment acts. Yet, according to Pollstar.com (Squibb says, "I've never known Pollstar to be wrong"), all but a couple of slots have already been filled. It lists the following grandstand acts so far:
Kenny Chesney, Saturday, August 9.
Montgomery Gentry, Sunday, August 10.
Nazareth, Sunday, August 10.
Buckwheat Zydeco, Monday, August 11.
Goo Goo Dolls, Tuesday, August 12.
Lisa Marie Presley, Tuesday, August 12.
Mary Wilson of the Supremes, Thursday, August 14.
Hootie and the Blowfish, Friday, August 15.
Everclear, Saturday, August 16.
John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Sunday, August 17.