State Fair rakes in record $6.5M

Record season for grandstand acts also helps draw 500K, largest attendance in five years

A sheep gets shorn at the State Fair this summer, which set a record for revenue. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

A sheep gets shorn at the State Fair this summer, which set a record for revenue. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

The annual State Fair in Springfield raked in a record $6.5 million in revenue, according to figures released Thursday by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Driven by a record $2.3 million collected from the 63,663 tickets sold over 11 days in August for music acts ranging from Snoop Dogg to Reba McEntire at the fairgrounds grandstand, overall revenue topped the previous record of $6.4 million set in 2013, and it easily outpaced last year’s fair revenue by $750,000.

Estimated attendance topped 500,000, well above last year’s 370,000, which saw an 8 percent drop from the previous year in the final fair under former Gov. Bruce Rauner. The estimated 509,000 who walked the fairgrounds this summer made up the largest attendance in five years.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker couldn’t contain his glee, issuing a statement saying: “I've had more fun at the State Fair than almost anything else I've done in the past eight months, and I'm proud that so many families enjoyed everything the fair has to offer — and it's no wonder this fair is one for the history books. This fair brought in record-breaking revenue of over $6.5 million, highlighted our tremendous agriculture industry, and supported incredible small businesses from across the state. I'm grateful to our hardworking team at the Department of Agriculture for making this possible and am already looking forward to next year's fair.”

“The success of this year's Illinois State Fair is a testament to the hard work of our staff, not only during the fair but throughout the whole year," said John Sullivan, director of the Department of Agriculture. "The buildings and grounds crew made the fairgrounds look more beautiful than ever, and State Fair Manager Kevin Gordon came up with new ways to bring more people back to the fairgrounds. After a lot of hard work, Illinoisans have a lot to celebrate.”

The department also announced that Gordon would be back in the same role for next year’s fair, set to run Aug. 13-23.