The Illinois State Fair wasn’t always in Springfield. In its first 40 years, the fair was held in a dozen places including Decatur, Chicago, Jacksonville and Peoria. Pam Gray, historian of the Illinois State Fair says when a permanent home for the State Fair was being considered in the 1890s, it came down to Springfield vs. Peoria.
“The decision game after Springfield said ‘we will allow you to have free water for 40 years’ ,” according to Gray
The State Fair began in Springfield in 1853. It did not occur in 1862 because of the Civil War, nor in 1893 because of the World’s Fair in Chicago. The State Fair Museum is located under the Grandstand.