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Seven things we want at the Illinois State FairSeven things we want at the Illinois State Fair

It’s a short list! Really. A bathroom. A Coliseum. A paycheck. We don’t ask for so much.

Holly Spangler

March 7, 2016

2 Min Read

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.


About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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