Years of budget cuts and deferred maintenance at the Illinois State Fair have led to a series of problems at the fairgrounds. But officials say they’ll be ready when the fair opens in one week.
State Fair manager Kevin Gordon didn't mince words: “Honestly, the last year and half has been challenging," he said. "OK? I’ll be the first to say it.”
At last year’s fair, a flash flood stranded people and damaged dozens of cars and motor homes. Then, in the fall, the historic Coliseum was closed due to “structural deficiencies.” And last month, death and injuries occurred on a ride at the Ohio State Fair. But Gordon says people can still feel safe.
“Our number-one priority is the safety and well-bring of our fairgrounds," he said. "That is something that we would never, ever compromise."
Gordon says carnival rides will receive extra inspections this year.
Because of the death in Ohio, state Department of Agriculture Director Raymond Poe says he thinks fair rides will be the safest they’ve ever been.
“It’ll be a double, triple effort to make sure that inspections are done right," Poe said. "So I think probably someone else’s hardships is going to make ours safer."