[This post has been bumped up from Friday to Monday for easier display and comments are now open.]
* Mostly true…
* Democrat Day itself has not been canceled. Party members will still get their free tickets to the fair just like Republicans will on Governor’s Day. But the traditional noontime rally has been canceled.
Steve Brown told me part of the problem with Democrat Day over the years was that the same people make pretty much the same speeches at both the county party chairman’s brunch and then at the state fairgrounds rally a couple of hours or so later. It gets boring and repetitive and kinda pointless. It can be a real drag sitting in the hot sun listening to the same speech you just heard at brunch.
So, it looks like this could be the end of a very long era. I don’t know how far back the tradition goes, but it’s a very long time. Back in the day, the first Mayor Daley would send trainloads of people to the fair. It used to be a huge deal, but the rally crowds for both parties have seemed to taper off in recent years and I don’t think that Speaker Madigan likes doing it, either. Maybe it’ll restart if the Democrats elect a governor again, whenever that might be, because then Madigan won’t have to be in charge.
* From a Crain’s column I wrote back in 2014…
The Illinois State Fair’s “Director’s Lawn” is a tree-lined venue far from the corn dogs, grandstand concerts and beer tents.
The lawn spreads out in front of a rather dingy house used by the state’s director of agriculture, off a road marred by potholes and best accessed via a special gate that often is closed during the fair because there’s so little public parking. A million or so people attend the fair each year.
The grass on the lawn is trampled flat. But no events ever are as crowded as the annual Governor’s Day and the accompanying rally for the party out of power.
Even in this era of high-tech campaigns, the twin events unofficially kick off the governor’s race, despite the fairgrounds’ somewhat rundown appearance. Politicians high and low attend. The more important ones give speeches, the less important mill about and try to interest others in shaking their hands. Every major media outlet sends reporters.
There usually are four crowds. There’s the “true believers,” young men and women who work or volunteer for the candidates. They wear matching T-shirts, carry signs and fire up the crowds by cheering or shouting slogans on command.
Then there are the “older believers,” folks who aren’t nearly as youthful or fired up but still strongly support their candidates. They sit in the front section with a clear view of the stage.
The “space-fillers” mostly are bused in to increase the crowd. They sit where they can’t see the speakers, either behind the stands for the news media or off to the side under a canvas tent. They chat among themselves and enjoy the free food.
The fourth group is the “hacks in the back.” These are the political professionals, high-level campaign operatives, lobbyists and legislators. They’ve heard enough speeches, so they gossip at the rear of the lawn near the free beer.
No more free beer and hot dogs and politicking on the Director’s Lawn this year, at least for the Democrats.