Illinois State Fair Springfield

Ag education and competitions are still a centerpiece of the Illinois State Fair, running Aug. 8-18 this year in Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — As a sign of the times, one of the new exhibits at the Illinois State Fair this year is a hemp plot.

Because of a great deal of interest among farmers and the public, a CBD plot and a fibrous hemp plot were planted on the grounds on June 11, said Krista Lisser, public information officer for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

This is the first year the state is taking applications for growers. The Department of Agriculture received 867 applications and has already issued 574 licenses, Lisser said.

The State Fair in Springfield Aug. 8-18 aims to expose fairgoers to much of the state’s agriculture industry.

Guests will also get a chance to see pollinator plants in front of the agricultural building.

“Bees and butterflies will be swirling around,” Lisser said.

Returning this year will be favorite activities for children, including piglets on display from the Illinois Pork Producers. And daily agriculture tours of the fair will continue.

The showmanship and livestock judging competitions are always well attended as is Ag Day, which will be Tuesday, Aug. 13, with a variety of events including recognition of farm families, Lisser said. The Cutest Little Farm contest takes place during the day and the Grand Sale of Champions is featured that night.

A ribbon cutting at Barn 25Q, the rehabbed horse barn, will take place at 11 a.m. on the same day. Another important ribbon cutting takes place on Aug. 9 in celebration of the Coliseum, which has received more than $10 million in renovations and will be open for the fair for the first time in two years. The Coliseum, built in 1901, was closed in 2016 when engineers found it structurally unsafe.

This year’s opening day also features horse racing.

As always, other days during the state fair recognize specific groups, with Saturday, Aug. 10, being Kids Day. Veterans and Gold Star families are featured on Aug. 11; Scouts and seniors, Aug. 12; agriculture, Aug. 13; and Governor’s Day is Aug. 14, although Gov. J.B. Pritzker is scheduled to attend the fair several days. Republican Day is Aug. 15; First Responders are recognized Aug. 16; Park District Conservation on Aug. 17; and Family Day ends the fair on Sunday, Aug. 18.

Lisser, who was a 4-H member herself, said the fair is encouraging people to attend 4-H shows and other events on the weekdays. There is a weekday attendance incentive this year called the “Midweek Motivator.” People who visit Monday through Thursday can register for a daily drawing. The grand prizes will be drawn at the end of the fair for a drone, a golf cart and a hot tub.

Another fun feature at the fair this year is called “Feeding Frenzy,” she said. It runs 2-5 p.m. when 40 vendors will reduce prices on a food items to encourage people to enjoy food that time of day.

Phyllis Coulter is Northern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.