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Illinois State Fair begins this week

The Illinois State Fair will return in the coming days with thrilling rides, live music, agricultural shows and a whole lot of food.

Festivities will officially kick off on Thursday at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, with the agricultural and entertainment spectacle starting at 7 a.m. Carnival rides won’t be up and running until noon, however. The fair’s popular opening event — the longtime Twilight Parade — will get underway at 5:30 p.m.

The 11 days of excitement will feature something for everyone — from monster truck racing to character brunches, a Paint and Craft Experience, plus circus acts.

Big names will grace the grandstand — from country superstar Tim McGraw to the 1960s rock band REO Speedwagon and the rapper Nelly. If you’re not sure when to make the trip — or what is happening and when — here’s a guide of what you can expect, from admission prices to the grandstand lineup and additional entertainment planned during the fun-filled showcase.

Admission prices

  • Children – free
  • Adults – $10 (Fridays and Saturdays)
  • Adults – $5 (13 to 59)
  • Seniors – $3 (At least 60 years old)
  • Seasonal   – $40 (Gate 6, Lot 18 infield) 
  • Note: Parking will cost $5 daily.

Free and discount admission days

  • Sunday, Aug. 13 -Veterans & immediate families receive free admission with a proper ID
  • Monday, Aug. 14  – Seniors and Scouts (with a proper ID or uniform) receive free admission
  • Tuesday, Aug. 15 – $2 admission for seniors and adults  
  • Friday, August 18  –  Free admission for first responders and health care workers with a proper ID

Grandstand lineup

  • Friday, Aug. 11: Old Dominion with Alexandra Kay
  • Saturday, Aug. 12: An Evening with The Doobie Brothers
  • Sunday, Aug. 13: Alanis Morissette with Tenille Townes
  • Tuesday, Aug. 15: REO Speedwagon with Edwin McCain
  • Wednesday, Aug. 16: Alter Bridge with Mammoth WVH
  • Thursday, Aug. 17: Tim McGraw with Landon Parker
  • Friday, Aug. 18: Chevelle
  • Saturday, Aug. 19: Maren Morris with TBA
  • Sunday, Aug. 20: Nelly with Ashanti & Ja Rule

Multi-Purpose Arena events

Monster truck races, a rodeo, tractor and truck pulls plus a demolition derby are all planned at the Multi-Purpose Arena. Head here for details on event schedules, prices and more.


For some, the focus will solely be on the food. This year, there will be no shortage of options — with more than 100 vendors serving up everything from carnival classics to Irish dishes and German cuisine — to name a few.

There will be a booth dedicated to almost everything you can think of — including fried sweets, Jamaican food, Italian cuisine, breakfast, tacos and BBQ.

Rides and attractions

Adrenaline seekers will have plenty to experience, with dozens of rides to chose from, including carnival staples.

There are multiple ticket options if you want to go on rides, including a Mega Pass for $90, Jumbo Pass for $100 and admission book for $45.

Carnival Bargain Bracelets — which cost $35 — might be your best bet. The bracelet is only good for the day of purchase, but offers unlimited rides — excluding the Giant Slide and SkyGlide.

Sensory Friendly Fair

New this year will be two initiatives specifically suited for those with sensory processing disorders. Sunflower Hours — which will offer a variety of free entertainment options for families will special needs children — is planned from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday, according to the fair’s website.

Various stages will offer fun family friendly programming, like a magic bean show, a dog show and a character meet and greet — but without the use of large sound systems and loud music.

The Sensory Station, a dedicated quiet zone, will be open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. in the Emmerson building each day. The station will be equipped with tools such as weighted blankets, noise canceling headphones, calming pods and quiet activities to aid children and adults who need help processing the sights, smells, noises and crowds at the fair. 

Other entertainment

Separate from concerts and events taking place at the Multi-Purpose Arena, there will be plenty of entertaining acts for people of all ages. Those include a Cycle Circus, comedic cooking show, high dive show and a dog show. More information is available here.