County Fairs And Their Economic Impact

           A new study, released Friday, February 13, shows that Illinois county fairs annually generate $170 million in money directly spent by fair participants and attendees.  The total sum was estimated after distributing nearly 5,000 brief questionnaires to members of these groups.  To this sum should be added additional monies raised by the “multiplier effect” of monies spent within Illinois boundaries, particularly in rural areas.  In many cases a dollar spent in an Illinois county seat or fairground community will turn over two or three times before leaving Illinois. 

The study, overseen by the Extension Department of the University of Illinois, was carried out in the summer of 2014.  Many of the questionnaires were distributed by 4-H youth undergoing informal training in STEM data-gathering and techniques.  In the survey, many fairgoers and fair participants reported spending significant sums outside the festival grounds.  Products purchased outside festival grounds included meals, transportation items such as motor fuel, and a variety of retail goods.  

Commenting on the study results, a spokesperson for the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs called for an increase in the State’s commitment to Illinois’s 103 rural fairs.  Existing funding sources for county fairs have declined in line with the overall shift of much of Illinois’ voting population to large urban areas.