SPRINGFIELD (Ill.) — When John Sullivan took over as Director of the Department of Agriculture, he knew his choice for State Fair manager was crucial.
He reached out to former directors for advice on what to look for in a manager.
“They would tell me somebody that is detail oriented, and somebody who is really well organized and is friendly with the crowds and the public,” Sullivan said. “I asked who were the good ones, and Kevin Gordon’s name would come up every time.”
Gordon led the State Fair through the aftermath of the state’s budget impasse. He struggled to get vendors to come his first year because they still hadn’t been paid for the previous year.
Despite the financial troubles, the fair brought in record numbers in grandstand revenue and tickets sold during his short stint as manager.
Now, the State Fair is on its way back to where it used to be.
“For the first time in the last 15 years, it actually feels like the Illinois State Fair,” Debbie Oxford, a food vendor at the fair, said. “People are here, they are happy, and their is a lot of movement.”
Gordon enjoyed his retirement, but it was weird for him to not have a job to go to every day. He retired he found out he was going to be a grandfather. But he had more time than he was expecting
When Sullivan asked him back, he couldn’t turn down the offer to
“We put in a lot of hours out here, and not only with our staff, but in the buildings,” Gordon said. “A lot of extra hours that you don’t get paid for, but it doesn’t matter, because you want this place to get.”
Fair goers notice the effort, and they notice the State fair making a comeback. Ed McDowall have been coming to the State Fair with his wife since the 70’s.
He said the fair has a completely different feel to it this summer.
“We are in the middle of the day here on a Thursday,” McDowall said. “This is not a high crowd time for the State Fair. It’ one in the afternoon here, but there is a definite feel and a definite buzz and there is a presence around the passageways.”