Last week, I shared what I knew about the new folks in charge of the Illinois State Fair. Any time there’s turnover in positions, there can be turnover in priorities. But for sure, Illinois agriculture saw a lot to love about last year’s Illinois State Fair.
So with all that in mind, here’s a look at what I’d like to see at the 2016 Illinois State Fair:
1/ Continue to emphasize agriculture. Philip Nelson and Patrick Buchen put ag at the forefront, with barn tours, a prominent agriculture tent and events and more. The Illinois State Fair needs to be more than a carnival, and what better venue to share agriculture with consumers.
2/ Show some love to the livestock exhibitors. Especially the juniors. I’ve been part of a family that’s exhibited cattle at the Illinois State Fair for decades. There’s nothing more disheartening than feeling like a second-class citizen in a concrete jungle. We’re already trying to tie out 1,300-pound animals while dodging strollers; just give us a break, man.
3/ Pay judges. Just find a way. These are people who bring incredible levels of expertise and time, and most of them are there for the kids, anyway. But let’s make the Illinois State Fair a class-act and pay the people we’ve contracted to do business with. And if you can’t pay them? At least send them a letter acknowledging their service and the (incredibly crappy) Illinois budget situation.
4/ Keep it up at the Coliseum. Yes, it was hot, and yes, it was a little confusing. But the energy in the Coliseum during the Champion Drives was electric. Let’s keep “I made it to the Coliseum” a thing for the kids. Same for the Sale of Champions. This is a big deal and people outside agriculture need to see it.
5/ Keep 4-H together. It was an exceptional experience to have all the 4-H projects under one roof, accessible to parking and hauling large projects, and air conditioned. I understand it was less exceptional for the rabbit and poultry folks to move to the other side of the grounds. But the Orr Building was used well last year. Did I mention the air conditioning? Let’s keep it up.
6/ Stick with the junior exhibitor age expansion. We’ve spent a lot of time hashing this out. People sort of, mostly understand the rules now. Livestock exhibition is so good for kids and families. There is no downside to more kids. Clearly, more kids showing more livestock are better. 4-H projects, too.
7/ Keep the bathrooms open. Please. It really is the little things.