SPRINGFIELD – Governor Pat Quinn today announced that the recently concluded Illinois State Fair reported its highest attendance in more than ten years. A total of 961,142 fairgoers passed through the gates this year, an increase of five percent – or 42,707 visitors – compared to a year ago, when attendance was 918,435. The figure is the fair’s highest attendance since 2002, when an estimated 1.2 million people visited the fair.
“No matter how you add it up, this was a great fair and these numbers are good for the Illinois economy,” Governor Quinn said. “While this year’s high attendance is encouraging and makes the effort that goes into putting on the event worthwhile, it is what can’t be quantified - those lasting memories the fair creates - that is most important.”
“A day at the fair is fun for everyone, and the families who attended this year likely will never forget their trip to Springfield. I hope those memories will keep them coming back for years to come.”
Several records were set during the 11-day run of the fair as well.
The Grandstand entertainment was the highest-grossing line-up in State Fair history with ticket sales of $2.03 million. The sales figure eclipsed the previous record of $1.57 million set just last year. Grandstand attendance totaled 53,287, the most since 2000, when 54,345 tickets were sold.
Toby Keith was the biggest draw - his concert sold 9,367 tickets, 144 more than the Styx and REO Speedwagon concert (9,223). Governor Quinn is one of Toby Keith’s biggest fans and attended his concert, where he declared “Toby Keith Day” in Illinois.
Oneida teen Nelson England’s grand champion steer sold for $62,000, one of seven record prices that the fair’s prize-winning junior livestock received during the Governor’s Sale of Champions. Other records were for the Land of Lincoln steer ($50,100), the grand champion barrow ($25,000), the Land of Lincoln barrow ($40,650), the Land of Lincoln wether ($19,100), the grand champion meat goat ($11,050), and the Land of Lincoln meat goat ($3,750). Altogether, $222,650 was raised for the youngsters who exhibited the animals, most of whom plan to use the proceeds to help pay for college, as well as the state’s 4-H and FFA youth education programs.
Pq Three posted the fastest mile ever for a two-year-old pacer. The horse, owned by Obermeier and Quaid Stables of Evergreen Park and driven by Mike Oosting, set the record with a winning time of 1 minute 50.0 seconds, eclipsing the former mark of 1:50.2 set in 2005 by Lucky’s Z Tam and Hot N Sport.
The increased spending at the fair boosts purchasing at local businesses, which in turn stimulates economic growth in the area. The Illinois Department of Revenue collected a record $257,584 in sales taxes from Illinois State Fair vendors. That’s seven percent more than was collected a year ago. With the sales tax rate in Sangamon County at 6.25 percent, that figure means fairgoers spent $4.1 million on corn dogs, lemon shake-ups, and assorted trinkets this year. Gate and parking revenue was $1,530,676, breaking the previous record set in 2012 of $1,513,884. North American Midway Entertainment, the fair’s carnival contractor, reported record gross receipts of $1.4 million, surpassing the $1.29 million it collected a year ago.
"The Illinois State Fair is always great for the local economy, but this year was the best in recent memory," Springfield Mayor Mike Houston said. "Visitors have a good time at the fair, local merchants benefit, and we get to help put on a great ten-day show. The Capital City loves the Illinois State Fair,” Springfield Mayor Michael Houston said.
“First and foremost, I’d like to thank fairgoers for their patronage,” State Fair Manager Amy Bliefnick said. “They demonstrated that the State Fair truly is a place ‘Where Illinois Comes Together.’ I’d also like to thank Governor Quinn, Director Flider, and my staff for their support and assistance. These achievements only could have resulted from a team effort.”
Planning will begin almost immediately for next year’s fair, which will be held Aug. 7 – 14, 2014.