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Meet Me at the Fair? A Party of One or of None?

Daniel J. Kelley 31 July 2008 3 Comments

The approach of August means that it is time to begin making plans for the start of another school year. Back to school sales will be widely advertised in coming weeks. For those of you who have not made a vacation trip this year, there is time to do so before Labor Day. August is also the time to make plans to attend the Illinois State Fair. This year’s fair opens on August 7th and concludes on the 17th.

Attending the State Fair means making a trip to Springfield, which is still the state capital after all.

Judging from Rod Blagojevich’s chronic absenteeism one would never know that to be the case. Prior to the ratification of the Illinois Constitution of 1970, our governors were actually required to reside in the state capital.

The current constitution states that the governor be a resident of Springfield during his or her term of office, but the exact phraseology allows some wiggle room as the legal eagles haggle over the differences between what constitutes one‘s lawful residence as opposed to a mere domicile.

Our neighbors to the north hold their own state fair in West Allis, Wisconsin. I have never understood why this Milwaukee suburb was selected to be the permanent home of the fair, but that has been the case for decades. Perhaps the Wisconsin legislature realized that the good burghers of Milwaukee were not too keen on traveling to Madison and opted to transfer the state fair to the Badger State’s largest metropolitan center and most populous cluster of counties. Illinoisans must trek to Springpatch or make do with an auxiliary fair in DuQuoin. Once a private enterprise, the State of Illinois has owned and operated this secondary fair since 1986. It runs after the Springfield fair (August 22nd through September 1st).

In addition to the agriculture exhibitions and livestock judging, there will be live harness racing at the Illinois State Fair. Weird Al Yankovic will be performing at the fair, so be sure to make your ticket reservations early and avoid the last minute rush.

Once again, there will not be an official “Democratic Day” at the State Fair in 2008. What a pity. The annual gathering of the leading lights of the party has been canceled and supplanted by “Governor’s Day.” The name change coincided with Blagojevich’s first election in 2002. For the previous twenty-six years, Illinois had been governed by three Republican officeholders, but when Blagojevich took office “Democrat Day” was modestly renamed “Governor’s Day.” The Republicans will still have their own official day at the state fair.

According to press releases, “Governor’s Day” is a special time for Blagojevich to attend the fair and to meet with honored guests, including former Illinois Governors. George H. Ryan will have to send his regrets this year, but perhaps Dan Walker, Jim Thompson and Jim Edgar will be able to appear. But what will become of the ranking members of the Illinois State Democratic Party?

Can you imagine the impossibility and impracticability of trying to assemble all of the top Democrats on the same stage in 2008? Hopefully, the event could be held outdoors as no mere exhibition building or assembly hall could possibly contain all of the outsized egos on the potential invitation list. For myself, I wish that such an event could be held and televised!

Think of it! It would be better than watching a professional wrestling cage match. Governor Rod Blagojevich, Democratic State Party Chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan and Attorney General Lisa Madigan sharing the same stage together. Can you feel the love? Comptroller Dan Hynes and Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias seem to be polite enough chaps who would probably do no worse than to stand in the wings and to smile nervously. In a pinch, US Senator Dick Durbin could be called upon to deliver an oration that would cause all of the feuding Democrats to fall fast asleep.

Frankly, I’d prefer to see Rod and the ever strident Lisa tear into each other. It would be more entertaining donnybrook than a radio rerun of “The Battling Bickersons.” Will Democratic State Senate President Emil Jones, a former sewer worker, be tossed into a culvert or an open manhole for demanding a legislative pay increase for himself? That may be too extreme a scenario, but Jones would still be well advised to duck and cover to avoid being hit by overripe fruit and vegetables hurled by irate taxpayers.

But what of the miracle man? Could not the Great Healer cast his spell upon the members of his own political faction to maintain the peace and promote a semblance of party unity for one afternoon? Surely, US Senator Barack Obama could perform that neat trick of prestidigitation if he put his mind to it.

Halting the potential bloodshed might prove his bona fides as a world leader capable of dealing with the Arabs and the Israelis. Maybe he could part the Red Sea as an encore.

Well, you see the trouble is that Obama has not committed to attending the dysfunctional family gathering in Springfield. He has been invited, but his schedulers have not confirmed his attendance. New Mexico’s governor, former Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker on Governor’s Day.

How can Obama and the members of this motley crew speak for the nation and the people of Illinois for that matter when they can scarcely speak to each


Daniel J. Kelley is a contributor to the “Chicago Daily Observer.”


  • :) (author) said:

    Where is the Rodster registered to vote?

  • Finn Kacy (author) said:

    If you can’t find the politicians just go to the livestock barns and just look around the pig troughs to see where they are being exhibited (that is their natural environment).

  • RJE (author) said:

    The harness racing at these two state fairs is ultimately pretty important in determining local champions. Some of these races can be bet locally at the racetracks or OTBs.

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