They failed. Big time.
The fair has been as sure-fired a loser as a kid playing a carnival game.
Well, maybe thatís not fair Ė every once and awhile, a youngster actually wins.
Not so with the fair. Itís a carnieís dream: a loser that wonít quit.
It and its Southern cousin the DuQuoin State Fair, have havenít broke even once
in the past two decades.
State Fair Manager Amy Bliefnick told me she doesnít know if itís possible for
the State Fair to operate in the black.
Leave to a government bureaucrat to think losing money is always an option.
During the last 20 years the state fairs have lost $71.2 million.
And Illinois taxpayers have paid those deficits.
Thatís money the state could have used to pay for something really important.
Instead it has been spent on a couple of festivals.
Donít get me wrong. I love the fairs.
As a teenager, I showed cattle and hogs.
As parent, Iíve carried each of my three daughters on my shoulders through every
nook and cranny of the State Fairgrounds.
Just last week, my 83-year-old father was regaling me with stories of how he and
his best friend from high school showed Duroc hogs at the State Fair back in
He tells me the fairís hog barn looks just the same as 64 years ago. And, folks,
it smells just the same, too.
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But what really stinks are these deficits.
Hosting fairs and festivals is not a core government function.
The money would be much better spent educating our kids, keeping our
roads safe, incarcerating the worst in our society or lowering
Instead we are spending it to bring Tilt-A-Whirls and deep-fried
Snickers bars to Springfield.
Sorry, fairs are nice but not something in which government should
They have known that for quite some time in the Lone Star State.
The State Fair of Texas is operated by a non-profit corporation that
manages to take in about $8 million more than it spends each year.
That money gets spent on improving the Dallas city park where the
fair is held.
So state fairs can break even. They can even turn a profit.
At a time when Illinois state government has the worst credit rating
in the nation and is its paying its bills months late; itís time to
take a serious look at making the fairs self-sufficient.
Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse reporter and a journalist with
Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers can
subscribe to his free political newsletter by going to ILNEWS.ORG or
follow his work on Twitter @scottreeder
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