December 08, 2022

Fair days: Du Quoin State Fair celebrates a century of survival

DU QUOIN, Ill. — From its signature event — horse racing — to the fair itself, the Du Quoin State Fair has survived to celebrate 100 years.

This year’s event is marking 100 years of being the state fair for southern Illinois in several significant ways.

“We are full steam ahead and plan to have just a tremendous fair for the 100th anniversary. We are really, really excited to be part of this historic event,” said Jerry Costello II, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

This year’s Du Quoin State Fair kicks off with the traditional Twilight Parade at 6 p.m. on Aug. 26. The fair continues through Sept. 5.

Josh Gross, general manager of the Du Quoin State Fair, said the 100th anniversary is being marked by events at the fair and on the fairgrounds.

“We focused on that 100 number,” Gross said.

One of the major commemorations was a boost to the fair’s free entertainment stage, the RollnUp Beer Stage, which opens at 4 p.m. each weekday and at noon during weekends, on Main Street on the fairgrounds. The stage hosts a variety of free entertainment and activities.

“We incorporated an additional $100,000 into our free entertainment, above and beyond what we normally would spend. We’re bringing in the bands 38 Special, Head East and Bad Flower. Those are bands that typically perform in the grandstand as a ticketed show and we have all of those for free this year at the fair,” Gross said.

The free entertainment this year also will feature two popular canine acts, the DockDogs canine aquatics competition and the Puppies of Penzance, a show featuring a pirate ship operated by dogs.

The DockDogs and the Puppies of Penzance shows will take place at regular times throughout the days of the fair.

The Du Quoin State Fair will hearken back to its founding and founder with another “100″ event. The fair was started by local businessman William R. Hayes.

Hayes was a horse racing enthusiast who, in the 1920s, purchased over 1,000 acres of reclaimed mining land with the intention of building a world-class racetrack.

Hayes did just that, but he didn’t live long enough, dying in 1952, to see the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds and its “Miracle Mile” oval track host the world-famous Hambletonian Stakes in 1957.

The fairgrounds hosted the Hambletonian annually until 1980. The fairgrounds then hosted the World Trotting Derby until 2009.

“Specific to the Du Quoin State Fair and the 100th anniversary, we put $100,000 extra into the horse racing purses here on the grounds during the fair,” Costello said.

Costello said that $25,000 was added to the purses for four signature races, 2-year-old trotting fillies, 2-year-old trotting colts, 2-year-old pacing fillies and 2-year-old pacing colts. The races will each have a winning purse of $50,000.

Those races are the Governor’s Cup, the First Lady’s Cup, the Lieutenant Governor’s Cup and the Director’s Award.

“This was a way we looked at to infuse money back into horse racing in the state of Illinois,” Costello said.

Horse racing starts on Aug. 26, the first day of the fair, at 7 p.m. Those signature races take place on Saturday, Aug. 27, with a post time of noon.

Another commemoration of the fair’s 100 years will be seen in the Exhibition Hall.

“We are going to have 100 double-sided images displayed, hanging from the rafters as a walk through the history of the fair and the fairgrounds. We’ve been collecting historical images as far back to the 1930s and 1940s. We found some great images and we’ve had those digitally blown up and they are going to be displayed from the rafters so people can come in there and see the fair through the years,” Gross said.

The Exhibition Hall is where the home goods, baking and produce displays are exhibited and the building also hosts many of the fair events directed toward youth and senior citizens.

The Illinois Products Expo, featuring local and regional vendors selling a variety of products and food, from wine to meat to soap, jewelry and home goods, will take place Sept. 3-4 in the Heartland Coca Cola Expo Hall.

For more information on the fair and other events, go to Ticketing information for the grandstand events also is available at that site.

For more information, call the fair administration office at 618-542-1515, or the ticketing office at 618-542-1535.

What Day Is It?

Each day of the 2022 Du Quoin State Fair honors a different group of people, with special events and offers going on during the fair that day.

Friday, Aug. 26 — Family Night

Saturday, Aug. 27 — Governor’s Day

Sunday, Aug. 28 — Veterans Day

Monday, Aug. 29 — Agriculture Youth Day

Tuesday, Aug. 30 — Republican Day

Wednesday, Aug. 31 — Senior Day

Thursday, Sept. 1 — Sponsor Appreciation Day

Friday, Sept. 2 — Illinois Tourism Day

Saturday, Sept. 3 — SIU/College Day and Coal Heritage Day

Sunday, Sept. 4 — First Responder Day

Monday, Sept. 5 — Labor Day

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor