2020-21 Board of Directors

Chairman John C. Slayton - Springfield, IL

Treasurer Chandra Roberts - Springfield, IL

Secretary Holly Spangler - Marietta, IL

Board Members Grant Hammer - Springfield, IL, Robert Easter, Ph.D. – Mahomet, IL, Sam Madonia - Springfield, IL, Edward McMillan - Greenville, Orion Samuelson - Huntley, IL, Phil Farrell - Lovington, IL, George Obernagel III - Waterloo, IL

Director of Ag Jerry Costello

About the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation

Both the Illinois State Fair and the Du Quoin State Fair are on the National Historic Register, as are their many Art Deco/Art Moderne buildings, the earliest of which was constructed in 1894.

They are historic in their architecture, agriculturally significant in their showcasing of Illinois’ number one industry, and socially and economically important to the communities that surround them.

In an August 2016 proclamation celebrating the formation of the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, Governor Bruce Rauner noted that many of the Fairgrounds buildings are in “dire need” of mechanical and structural repairs. He said the collaboration between the state and the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation “will enable the state to more efficiently and effectively maintain the decades-old structures in need of repair,” and that accepting private donations that will allow for building upgrades, facility infrastructure improvements, and new facility construction.

The first Illinois State Fair was in October 1853, followed by 40 years of cities throughout the state competing to host the annual event. It was not until 1894 that the state acquired property on Springfield’s North Side to provide the first permanent location for the annual exposition. Construction started that year on several fairgrounds buildings, including the Exposition Building, which is the only original structure remaining.

First incorporated in 1923, the Du Quoin State Fair was privately owned and operated until the 1980s when it was acquired by the State of Illinois to showcase the heritage of Southern Illinois. The original half-mile track dates to 1923, although most of the fairgrounds’ structures were built during the 1940s.

These are premier exposition grounds in Springfield and Du Quoin, hosting annual fairs that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors – and their entertainment dollars annually. The Illinois State Fair itself has an estimated annual economic impact of $86 million in the Capital City, while the Du Quoin State Fair boosts the local economy by $6 million.

Whether it’s corn dogs, blue ribbons, rock and country concerts or horse and auto racing you like, there’s something for nearly everyone at the State Fair. But you can also find tons of events at those same fairgrounds once the fairs end.

The impact and importance of the fairgrounds go far beyond the annual state fair festivities in August and September. Each year, dozens of outside organizations rent facilities at the fairgrounds for their non-fair events. In 2016, non-fair usage of the fairgrounds in Springfield totaled 527 event days with an estimated 175,000 attendance. In Du Quoin, use of fair facilities came to 146 days, with more than 69,500 attendees.

Many of the buildings and barns at the fairgrounds must be improved if Illinois is to have great State Fairs and to maintain the quality trade expositions, races, horse shows and other entertainment opportunities that have come to call the fairgrounds their home locations.

That is the purpose of the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, a not-for-profit organization formed by agricultural leaders in collaboration with the state to help raise the funds necessary to upgrade and improve these treasured structures.

Although the list of needed improvement projects is lengthy and costly, well beyond the state’s current means, Department of Agriculture officials have identified two structures as the first priorities for Foundation-assisted renovations that will allow them to continue to serve generation of visitors in Springfield and Du Quoin.

At the Illinois State Fair, the Coliseum, first constructed in 1901, is renowned for its use for national and regional horse shows and other grand events. In October 2016, the facility was closed down when workers noticed a loose ceiling beam, leaving the 116-year-old building structurally unsafe after years of deterioration. Corroded steel beams, roof leaks, and missing bolts and screws in support beams have been discovered. The necessary structural improvements are initially estimated to cost nearly $3.7 million. The Coliseum will remain closed and unavailable for the private non-fair events throughout 2017, though State Fair officials are working toward an on-site alternative.

At the Du Quoin State Fair, the fair’s grandstand has also been identified as needing significant structural repairs, which are estimated to cost about $2.1 million. Built in 1947, the Art Deco-styled Grandstand and its one-mile track were once the long-time home of the Hambletonian Stakes, a premier harness-racing event for Standardbeds. The facility now hosts harness racing, automobile races and country western/rock musical concerts during the annual fair, which traditionally concludes on Labor Day. In addition, the fairgrounds hosts other events throughout the year on its sprawling 750 acres.

Together, the two fairgrounds have $180 million in deferred maintenance costs. The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation is an avenue for fair enthusiasts, agri-business companies and associations, and indeed all Illinoisans, to help ensure these outstanding facilities are restored and modernized for future generations.

In his proclamation, Governor Rauner said, “I look forward to collaboration between Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation and the Department of Agriculture, and urge all Illinoisans to be part of the restoration of their Fairgrounds.”

Facts and FAQs

What is a 501(c)(3)/not-for-profit organization?

  • The Illinois General Not-for-Profit Corporation Act permits the incorporation of non- profit organizations for charitable purposes. Charitable organizations are tax-exempt pursuant to Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code.

  • Not-for-profits are subject to strict accounting of their finances and are subject to both state and federal oversight.

  • Charitable organizations provide a lawful way to supplement State funding with private donations.

  • Donors to charitable organizations may enjoy tax-exempt status on their donations to these organizations.

Illinois State Fair: Fairgrounds Needs

  • The Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield includes more than 170 buildings spanning 360 acres of land, with buildings as old as 124 years.

  • The Du Quoin State Fairgrounds includes more than 20 buildings spread across over 1200 acres of land, with buildings as old as 93 years.

  • Many of the buildings on both fairgrounds are in dire need of restoration, including paint, plumbing, roofing, and structural repairs

  • The fairgrounds carry $180 million in deferred maintenance costs. In an era of shrinking and uncertain budgets, there is a need to provide for additional financial support to these two important social and economic institutions.

Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation:

  • Leaders in the agricultural community established the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation and will seek 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status as a charitable organization to promote, support, assist, and sustain the Springfield and Du Quoin State and Fairgrounds.

  • Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation's activities will emphasize capital improvements at these sites, with an emphasis on restoration of buildings and capital enhancement.

A Volunteer Board:

  • Leaders in business and agriculture have volunteered to undertake the much needed work to maintain and improve the State Fairgrounds.

  • The Board is made up of non-paid members who represent a diverse cross section of the agriculture industry.

  • Board members will provide leadership and vision to the newly established Foundation, engage with private sector business organizations and individuals to develop strategies to raise private funding, coordinate with the Department of Agriculture to plan projects and determine the Fairgrounds’ needs, and serve as ambassadors for the revitalization and improvement of the Fairgrounds and their agricultural heritage.

  • In this role, Board members will help grow donations and approve the appropriate allocation of resources, consistent with the purposes articulated by donors and with the charitable goals of the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation.

Foundation Leadership:

  • The Board is composed of nine voting members.

  • The Board will vote on the appointment of a Chairman and Officers and otherwise organize as it deems necessary and in compliance with applicable state and federal law.

  • The Director of Agriculture and the Director of Historic Preservation will serve as honorary members of the Board. They will not have voting powers, but will advise the Board on their departments’ respective needs and priorities.

Staffing the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation:

  • As an independent entity, the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation will evaluate staffing, and other resource needs to meet its purpose and goals outlined in the articles of incorporation and bylaws and in compliance with all applicable laws.

  • The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation will employ outside legal counsel and auditing services to ensure all transactions are ethical and appropriate for a charitable organization.

Fundraising Goals:

  • The Capital Development Board has identified approximately $180 million of deferred maintenance needs at the two State Fairgrounds. The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation’s immediate goal will be to develop strategies to reduce that amount.

How Does Donating Work?:

  • Monetary donations will be given directly to the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation. The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation will establish accounts that will be held outside the State treasury (like other charitable organizations), so donors will know that their donations will go to their intended purpose. The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation will register with the Attorney General’s Office pursuant to the charitable trust and solicitation laws.

  • The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation will make resources available to the Department as needed and as available to meet the mutually agreed upon priorities.

  • The Director of Agriculture will share with the Board the priorities at both Fairgrounds. It will be the responsibility of the Board to evaluate the needs and match them with the available resources.

  • Funds collected by the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation will be subject to the legal requirements applicable to 501(c)(3) organizations to accept and distribute charitable donations.

Who Can Give?:

  • Anyone can give donations to the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation.

  • The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation can accept donations for the acquisition, construction, improvement, and development of potential Foundation projects. The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation can also solicit and generate private funding and donations that assist in enhancing and preserving Illinois’ agricultural heritage and State Fairgrounds both in Springfield and Du Quoin and the infrastructure at both fairgrounds.

Coordination between the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation and the Department of Agriculture:

  • The Department’s staff assisted the initial Board members in understanding the needs that could be filled by the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation and in developing a plan for its launch.

  • The Department’s Director will serve as a non-voting member of the Board.

  • The Department will coordinate with the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation going forward to convey the Department’s priorities and identify projects that could be aided by Foundation support.

Transparency and Legal Compliance:

  • The Board will ensure that the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation operates transparently, including disclosing its donors, to the fullest extent of the law.

  • The Board will be required, as a 501(c)(3) organization, to annually file IRS Form 990, which discloses staff salaries, revenue, expenses, and assets. The Board will also be required to file annual disclosures with the Attorney General’s Office pursuant to charitable trust and solicitation laws.

  • The Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation will also file an annual report with the Illinois Secretary of State and employ auditing services.

  • Because the Department of Agriculture is subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), its communications to the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation will be subject to FOIA.

  • Like other not-for--profits that do business with the State, the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation will be required to comply with section 7(2) of FOIA.

  • The Department will continue to comply with all applicable state and federal laws pertaining to procurement and prevailing wage.