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Serving: IL

Quick Take: State fair money, 20 top young farmers, Ukraine aid, more

Holly Spangler boy showing a beef cow in the Coliseum at the Illinois State Fairgrounds
RENOVATIONS: Little has happened at the Illinois State Fair’s Coliseum since Phase 1 renovations were completed in 2019 and the Grand Drive moved back to the historic building. Phase 2 will begin following the 2022 state fair, at a cost of $16.3 million.
State finds $58 million for fairgrounds, soybean leaders recognize 20 young farmers, Growmark sends aid to Ukraine, community college adds ag building and nutrient field day planned in central Illinois.

Illinois State Fairgrounds to get $58.1 million in renovations

The Illinois Department of Agriculture says the state is investing $58.1 million to address the crumbling buildings and roads throughout the historic Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.

“In the weeks and months ahead, the Illinois State Fair and the Illinois Department of Agriculture will be working with the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln to build a master plan for our fairgrounds that will provide the blueprint needed to ‘grow’ our facility usage to meet the needs of our community and further define our position as an event destination in central Illinois,” says fair manager Rebecca Clark, adding that the upgrades will help them to use the grounds for year-round events. 

The projects will be overseen by the Capital Development Board and include:

Multipurpose arena. Built in 2000, the 261,000-square-foot facility is set on 6 acres and will be closed during the 2022 Illinois State Fair for construction. Renovations include $8.6 million to repair sidewalks, walls, steps and expansion joints, while also repairing electrical systems, readjusting the tension structure, installing a new canopy, and rebuilding the retaining walls around the facility.

Roads. IDOA already invested $4.1 million in road construction projects, which began in the spring. The roads along the cattle barns, swine barn and Avenue of Flags were repaired and resurfaced. During fiscal year 2023, $8 million will be used to repair roads on Eighth Street between the IDOA and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources buildings, along the backstretch on the northwest corner of the fairgrounds, and to improve the south pedestrian tunnel leading into the fairgrounds from Gate 6/infield parking.

Coliseum. Phase 1 of the multiphase renovation was completed back in 2019, and construction will resume following the 2022 state fair. Phase 2 will focus on an electrical overhaul, underground plumbing, new seating, new restrooms, an elevator and adding a heating, ventilating and air conditioning system. Phase 2 costs are approximately $16.3 million.

Roofs. During the 2023 fiscal year, $1.87 million will be used to replace roofs on the Junior Livestock Building, sheep barn, Hobbies Arts and Crafts Building, and at least three barns along the backstretch.

HVAC. Also in the 2023 fiscal year, $11.9 million worth of HVAC replacements will upgrade the Orr Building, Illinois Building, Junior Livestock Building, Artisans Building, Hobbies Arts and Crafts Building, and Grandstand.

Tuckpoint. Nearly $3 million in tuckpoint will restore brick in the Grandstand, Artisans Building, Hobbies Arts and Crafts Building, Emmerson Building and Block Building (IDOA headquarters) during fiscal year 2023.

John Block IDOA Building. In 2023, $2.58 million will go to energy improvement repairs.

ISF Administration Building. In 2023, $1.7 million will repair the roof and replace HVAC systems. 

Top young farmers make soybean cut

The Illinois Soybean Association has named 20 young farmers to its inaugural Illinois 20 Under 40 awards program.

The winners are as follows:

  • Andrew Bowman, Oneida
  • Andy Lenkaitis, St. Charles 
  • Sarah Lenkaitis, St. Charles 
  • Austin Rincker, Moweaqua 
  • Blake Luckett, Ridgway 
  • Blane Olson, Elkhart 
  • Brandon Walter, Harvard 
  • Cameron McClure, Lawrenceville 
  • Chad Bell, Viola 
  • Dallas Glazik, Paxton 
  • David Murphy, Tiskilwa 
  • Drew DeSutter, New Windsor 
  • Kenneth Mentzer, Assumption 
  • Kathryn Mentzer, Assumption 
  • Matt Rush, Fairfield 
  • Matthew Hulsizer, Galesburg 
  • Michael Nelson, Paxton 
  • Michael Ganschow, Walnut 
  • Sarah Tweet Landers, Mendota 
  • Tyler Schleich, Monmouth

Judges sifted through more than 50 young farmer applications from across the state who were nominated for their efforts and activities to better their farming operations and communities.

The Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program had support from the following partner organizations: Illinois Beef Association, IL Corn, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association, Illinois Grain and Feed Association, and Illinois Pork Producers Association. Busey Bank and John Deere were corporate sponsors of the program.

Learn more about the 2022 Illinois 20 Under 40 award winners and the program online.

How you can help Growmark help Ukraine

Growmark is partnering with the Midwest Food Bank to collect donations for Tender Mercies, a program providing food relief directly in Ukraine. You can donate directly to the Growmark foundation, and the foundation will match the first $5,000 donated.

“This is a specific point in history when we have the opportunity to live out our noble purpose ‘to help feed and fuel the world,’” says Ann Kafer, Growmark executive vice president. “Partnering with Midwest Food Bank to get high-protein, easy-to-use food into Ukraine through reputable partners is a blessing and squarely in line with who we are as an agricultural cooperative system.”

Midwest Food Bank is based in Normal, Ill., but partnerships with groups around the world to provide food relief during disasters through its Tender Mercies program. Tender Mercies are high-protein, shelf-stable food packets that can be prepared using only boiling water, making them ideal for people who may not have access to normal cooking facilities. To aid in Ukraine relief, Midwest Food Bank has partnered with Convoy of Hope, which is working on the ground in Ukraine and nearby countries to distribute food and other supplies to those who need them most.

You can donate online or by mailing a check made out to: Growmark Foundation, c/o Karen Jones, 1701 Towanda Ave., Bloomington, IL 61701.

Check out new ag facility at Heartland Community College

Heartland Community College is building a 29,500-square-foot facility and grow labs for its agriculture program. The $23 million facility will include instructional space and space for field trips, FFA and 4-H programs, and is planned to open by fall 2023.

“With this facility, we will have the learning spaces needed for plant science, soil analysis, precision planting technology, drone technology, heavy equipment, agribusiness and the many other types of instruction tied to this diverse industry,” says Keith Cornille, Heartland president.

The McLean County Farm Bureau gave $2 million toward the project, and it also received another $1.5 million in private support through gifts from Joe Talkington, Precision Planting, Cargill, Compeer Financial, CoBank, Illinois Soybean Association and others. The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation gave an additional $2 million grant.

McLean County ready to talk conservation

The McLean County Farm Bureau and McLean County Soil and Water Conservation District are hosting a Nutrient Stewardship Field Day from 9 a.m. to noon, July 12, at the Illinois State University Research Farm near Lexington, Ill.

The event will focus on Lake Bloomington and Evergreen Lake watershed efforts and the local practices that can help reach watershed goals. Look for presentations from researchers at ISU and Purdue University on research projects involving cover crops, saturated buffers and other nutrient research topics.

Registration opens at 8:30 a.m. Lunch will be served; RSVP by calling 309-663-6497 or registering online at

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