County agricultural fairs contribute to local economies in Illinois
Your trip to the county fair last summer was about more than just funnel cakes, Ferris wheels, and a grand champion steer named “Ted.” You – and thousands of other fair-goers – helped contribute to your local and state economy.
The Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs (IAFF) partnered with University of Illinois Extension to perform an economic impact study for the 2014 Illinois agricultural fairs. The study showed total expenditures of fair attendees was estimated to be approximately $170 million; $90 million in transactions occurred directly within the local economy and supported more than 1,000 jobs. The Illinois Department of Agriculture appropriated $5.1 million for county fairs in 2015. Assuming a significant portion of the budget will be allotted to agricultural fairs, it is estimated the state could see a return almost 18 times greater than their investment.
There were 104 fairs held in Illinois in 2014, and the study was conducted at 15 fairs across the state – five in the northern zone, five in the central zone, and five in the southern zone. Nearly 5,000 fair attendees completed surveys that were collected by 4-H youth under the supervision of Extension staff. Alex Norr, a graduate student from the U of I Department of Urban and Regional Planning, conducted 33 key informant interviews of local fair board members, local fair sponsors, and fair participants.
Beyond the economic impact, the study revealed the contributions fairs make to the culture, unity, and tradition of the communities they serve. These benefits include family-friendly activities, education about agriculture, opportunities for local organizations to get involved, fundraising for local groups, and unique entertainment opportunities.
Norr also prepared a report, The 2014 Economic Impact of Illinois Agricultural Fairs, with supervision from Extension’s Community and Economic Development (CED) and 4-H Youth Development staff. The report was presented at the 2015 IAAF convention in mid-January.
The project’s primary investigator, CED Educator Carrie McKillip, said, “This project has illustrated the best of what Extension can contribute to its partners. By providing an avenue for campus-based learning through the Department of Urban and Regional Planning as well as a learning experience for 4-H youth across the state, we were able to provide research-based information to a valued partner.”
For more information, contact Carrie McKillip, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 309.342.5108.