St. Clair County takes first step to bring back county fair after nine-year hiatus
Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.
St. Clair County officials hope to bring back the annual county fair starting in 2023 after a nine-year hiatus.
The timing aligns with the county’s takeover of the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds & Expo Center in a joint purchase agreement with the city of Belleville.
The St. Clair County Fair used to take place on the fairgrounds property at 200 South Belt East in Belleville. The last county fair was in 2014. It was canceled the following year due to financial difficulties.
The County Board voted at its meeting Monday night to apply for the state funding that is available for county fairs. The deadline for counties to ask for financial support from the Department of Agriculture is Dec. 31 of the year before they plan to organize a county fair.
The St. Clair County Fair received almost $69,000 from the state in 2014, the Belleville News-Democrat previously reported. Illinois suspended funding for county fairs in 2015 because of the budget stalemate, which lasted until 2017.
The fair had operated at a loss for a couple of years before the 2015 cancellation, the president of the St. Clair County Fair Association told the BND in 2015.
St. Clair County Fair events included stock car races, a demolition derby, livestock judging, exhibits, rides and games.
Last week, St. Clair County and the city of Belleville approved an intergovernmental agreement to purchase the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds with $2.35 million of the county’s federal COVID-related relief funds.
County Board Chairman Mark Kern said they want to use the fairgrounds for emergency services, as well as continued hospitality and tourism.
It is where the county administered over 100,000 COVID-19 vaccinations during the pandemic. It will become a place for residents to go for temporary housing if they get displaced by natural disasters such as tornadoes or flash floods, according to the chairman.
Scheduling even more community events at the fairgrounds, including the return of the county fair, is also among officials’ goals for the 22.5 acre property.
Lexi Cortes is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.