Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Illinois fair pales politically

Wednesday and Thursday will be the political days, so to speak, of the Illinois State Fair. Not that it means much, because people interested in electoral politics will be turning elsewhere for their little trivial tidbits about who is running for what – and who is doing what to whom.
SIMON: The political highlight of the fair?

Our state’s fair doesn’t compare to the state fairs put on by surrounding Midwestern states.

IN SOME RESPECTS, that is a good thing. I doubt any Illinoisan wants the notoriety being directed these days at Indianapolis and the Indiana State Fair. It’s bad enough that a Chicago resident is among that fair’s casualties.

But we’re not going to get the Republican presidential hopefuls passing through Springfield this week – trying to show they are “real” people by devouring as many pork chop-on-a-sticks as they can.

There won’t be any straw polls taken at the Illinois State Fairgrounds that will have the ability to influence who deserves to be called the frontrunner for next year’s presidential election.

Heck, “Dateline SPRINGFIELD, Ill.” won’t even be the primary dateline for political stories in the state of Illinois. People interested in elections will be more likely to pay attention to “Dateline ALPHA, Ill.” where Barack Obama will be concluding his three-day Midwest bus tour.

WILL WE GET a native Illinoisan who gets as brash and bold with Obama as that guy in Minnesota did earlier this week?

By comparison, the political activity at the Illinois State Fair will be subdued.

Wednesday is the day officially designated as “Governor’s Day,” where Pat Quinn officially invites former governors to attend the event – which could be a nice trip down memory lane if you care about what Jim Edgar thinks.
OBAMA: Alpha visit upstaging the fair?

More recent governors have federally-imposed restrictions on their personal freedom that prevent them from being able to be in Springfield on Wednesday.

THERE ALSO WILL be the traditional rallies in which elected officials try to stir up the troops, so to speak. Because Quinn is a Democrat, that party will use the fair on Wednesday. Those of the GOP persuasion will have their rebuttal “Republican Day” on Thursday.

Now I did a seven-year stint at the Statehouse in Springfield, and I covered the Illinois fair every year. So unless somebody has some sort of radical change in the program that they have managed to keep secret until this very minute, I can tell you what will happen.

Quinn will be present, along with other Democratic statewide officials and the few state legislators from central Illinois of the Dem persuasion. It will be a little rally held on a stage erected at the director’s lawn.

It will be hampered by the fact that the Democratic Party in this state is a Chicago-based entity, and there just aren’t many political people who want to make the 200-mile drive to the capital city for the fair. Rahm Emanuel is so unlikely to take time out from his schedule to work the fairgrounds.

THE REPUBLICAN DAY follow-up will give Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford and Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka to shine. Although the Illinois Republican Party is so luster-less these days that it won’t be much of a show.
TOPINKA: The Simon rebuttal?

How many times can we hear Topinka play her accordion before it becomes repetitive?

If anything, the political highlight of this year’s Illinois State Fair is most likely to be the fact that a Carbondale-based band, Loose Gravel (for whom Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon plays banjo), will be among the entertainers at the fairgrounds.

Although they’re not the main musical act. The Oak Ridge Boys will be the name act performing on Wednesday for Quinn’s delight.

YOU MAY THINK that is a moldy-oldie country music act not worthy of much attention. But it is a step up from the Thursday night entertainment – the Abe Lincoln Quarter Midgets auto racing.

One might wonder if the fair organizers deliberately scheduled the oddball entertainment for Republican Day. They may have. I recall how back in the 1990s when the fair had GOP-appointed officials, the rebuttal Democrat Day was usually the one day that didn’t get ANY entertainment scheduled on the main stage.

These last few paragraphs may have sounded like a bunch of boring rambling. It is because the fair’s political events are usually kept so separate from the mass of the fair that I always wondered if the people attending the event were even aware of any political people being present?

There certainly won’t be anything happening at the fairgrounds that will get national attention.  I’d be amazed if we get any Mitt Romney sightings in Springfield. We’ll have to settle for sightings of a woman who sort of looks like Michelle Bachmann (crazy eyes and all) if you have a few beers, then cover your left eye.

THE CAPITAL CITY will have to settle for the fact that Sarah Palin – who was riding around the Midwestern U.S. on her own bus earlier this week – included a brief appearance in Springfield, and even included a stop at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. She got to check out the Lincoln artifacts and now probably thinks she's just like Honest Abe; who during his own lifetime was disparaged harshly by his opponents and didn't receive his acclaim until after death.

The new family portrait? Photograph provided by Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

That photograph of her and the Palin family with the Lincoln family figures taken by museum officials and posted on their Facebook page is most likely the political highlight of our political scene this week.


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