A sense of pride fills the entire region when the Du Quoin State Fair is held in late summer each year.
“It’s really a popular event,” says Fred Huff, Du Quoin State Fair historian. “It’s something the people of Du Quoin are terribly proud of, and I can stretch that: I think the people all over Southern Illinois are terribly proud of it.”
The Du Quoin State Fair traditionally runs for 11 days beginning in late August and ending on Labor Day. But as important as the State Fair is to the region – and to Illinois, for that matter – the impact of the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds lasts all year.
“There is a major event here every other weekend – around 25 to 28 total throughout the year,” Huff says.
With facilities that include the Southern Illinois Center, exhibition hall, and a 1-mile dirt track that hosts harness and motorsports racing, the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds has been considered a leading multi-use venue that attracts thousands annually since opening in 1923. Popular events include expert bull riding, Special Olympics, national camping rallies and horse shows, among others.
One particularly well-attended event is the Street Machine Nationals, which is held for three days in late June. The show offers a variety of automobiles, racing events and activities, plus features classic cars, muscle cars, hot rods and street trucks that would delight any auto show enthusiast.
Initially held from 1986 to 1998, the Street Machine Nationals returned to Du Quoin in 2013. Huff says the event has become more family-oriented than ever, attracting around 30,000 people.
The fairgrounds’ 1-mile clay, oval track, which opened in 1945, is also a place for motorsports enthusiasts. The track is host to both United States Auto Club and Automobile Racing Club of America races during the State Fair – on the final Sunday and then again on Labor Day. Top drivers, including Indy stars A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and others, have raced here.
“Years ago, the same cars that competed and raced at the Indianapolis 500 came here and raced just three months later,” Huff says.
Racing is also a central part of the Springfield State Fairgrounds, where the Springfield Mile is held every Memorial Day and Labor Day. Considered the world’s fastest dirt track, the Springfield racetrack attracts people from across the world for its two annual American Motorcyclist Association races.
The racetrack at the Springfield State Fairgrounds dates back to 1910, making it one of the oldest speedways in the U.S.