SPRINGFIELD – Upholding an Illinois State Fair tradition, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, along with his wife First Lady Patricia and daughters Amy and Annie, today cut the ribbon at the Main Gate of the fairgrounds to officially open the 10-day event. Gov. Blagojevich and his family toured the grounds following the opening ceremony, stopping by the Governor’s and First Lady’s Tent in Main Street to view the exhibits. The 154th Illinois State Fair begins today and runs through Sunday, August 20th. The theme of this year’s Illinois State Fair is "Experience It! Illinois State Fair 2006."
"The Illinois State Fair is something my family looks forward to every year. There really is something for everyone here – including top notch entertainment, fantastic food, and fun rides. It's an experience no one should miss out on," said Gov. Blagojevich.
The Governor’s tent is located near the main entrance of the grounds on the corner of Main Street and Brian Raney Avenue, and it highlights many of the administration’s initiatives and accomplishments in health care, education, economic development, and public safety. Displays highlight the All Kids health insurance program, including an on-site computer where parents can sign their children up, the $1 billion FutureGen clean coal-to-energy project that Illinois is competing for, and a feature showing the many ways that Illinois responded to both the Hurricane Katrina tragedy and tornadoes that swept through Central Illinois in the spring.
After officially opening his tent, the First Family headed next door to open the First Lady’s tent, which focuses on women’s health, children and state beautification. There, information is available on state programs that promote a healthy lifestyle and provide health screenings, and the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, which recently opened a wig and prosthesis salon in Springfield, provided a display for the public to view wigs available to women going through treatment for cancer.
The First Lady’s tent also features a number of activities for children to enjoy, including a small plane children can climb into. And, the Department of Transportation (IDOT) is giving away maps, crayons and coloring books that promote the First Lady’s Wild Flower initiative. IDOT is also holding a drawing to give away 100 car seats. And once again, Prevent Blindness America is providing free vision screenings, as well as promoting awareness of childhood vision disorders such as amblyopia, a serious pediatric disorder commonly known as "lazy eye." Without proper diagnosis, amblyopia can lead to permanent vision damage or blindness.
The Governor and First Lady’s tents are open daily from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
The 2006 Illinois State Fair, in addition to traditional fair activities like the Giant Slide and the Butter Cow, features some new attractions. These include:
Hometown Pride: Located inside Gate 2 on the Illinois State Fairgrounds, Hometown Pride is an opportunity for communities across Illinois to showcase the best their city has to offer to thousands of guests from across the state and the Midwest. Every day, the history, industry and tourism information for a different city will be featured. Some of the cities include Decatur, Champaign, Quincy, Effingham, Kankakee, Jacksonville, Galesburg, Bloomington.
The Jungle Attractions: Located just inside the Main Gate, The Jungle features several new animal attractions this year. Additions include Close Encounters of the Exotic Kind, a mix of Royal Bengal tigers and African lions; Great Little Bear Show, featuring three North American black bears; and Live Shark Encounter, a shark show in which divers get into a tank and feed sharks.
Horseshoe Eating Contest: Located on the Lincoln Stage, GoldenPalace.net brings the first-ever horseshoe eating championship to the Illinois State Fair on Saturday, Aug. 12. GoldenPalace.net has placed a total purse of $4,000 on this Major League Eating ™ event, an official stop on the 2006 World Series of Competitive Eating.
Drive in Movie: A fun oasis themed like a classic drive-in movie that encourages visitors to sit down and relax for a few minutes while enjoying a cartoon on the Big Screen in the Hometown Pride area. Fairgoers can get their picture taken in one of three dream cars from another decade as they park and watch four cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner and friends.
White Sox Baseball Trophy: Continuing the celebration of the White Sox World Series Championship, the White Sox and U.S. Cellular are bringing the 2005 World Series Trophy to the Illinois State Fair. The authentic World Series trophy will be on display Saturday, Aug. 19 in the U.S. Cellular tent across from the Emmerson building on Main St. from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. The visit is part of a 45 city tour across Illinois and Northwest Indiana.