By STEVE BINDER
DU QUOIN, Ill. — Livestock competition, agriculture exhibits and Illinois-made products continue to make up the foundation of the Du Quoin State Fair this year, but organizers say they are also proud to give visitors access to more musical acts free of charge.
While the cost to the fairgrounds requires a minimum $7 parking free, access to all exhibits and the grounds is free. The fair opens this Friday and runs through Labor Day, Sept. 2.
Thanks to several corporate sponsors, four of the fair’s main musical acts this year won’t cost show-goers a cent to attend. The four freebies include southern Illinois native and country music star Gretchen Wilson, the self-proclaimed “Redneck Woman,” who performs Aug. 28.
“This is an incredible opportunity for southern Illinois,” said John Rednour Jr., fair manager. “Thanks to these great sponsors, we are not charging $60 a ticket like it would take to attend one of these shows almost anywhere else in this country, but we are offering them for free.”
In addition to Wilson, the other free shows include a return engagement from rock musician Uncle Kracker, who will perform in the beer tent Aug. 23. He received rave reviews when he first performed in 2011. “We heard from a lot of people who said we should have him back,” Rednour added.
Country musician Darryl Worley takes the Grandstand on Veterans Appreciation Night, Aug. 25, which will include a fireworks display following the concert. And country musician Aaron Tippin takes over the beer tent stage Sept. 1.
Rednour called the free concerts “a big, big deal. It’s hard for people in southern Illinois to go on a trip right now, but they can come here and take their kids to a free concert by the these great acts. These sponsors are making that happen.”
The Illinois Lottery is the principal sponsor, along with Black Diamond Harley-Davidson, Jackson Pools and Spas, Pass One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning, People’s National Bank, Continental Tire, Republic Services and Cellular Connection.
Other big-name acts lined up this year, for which visitors will have to crack open their wallets, include main headliner Kansas, with The Fabulous Thunderbirds, at the Grandstand on Aug. 31. Tickets are $35 and $30.
Montgomery Gentry, with opening act Drew Baldridge, are scheduled to perform Aug. 30 on the main stage. Tickets are $35 and $30.
Vancouver quartet Theory of a Deadman, with opening act Trapt, are lined up for Aug. 29, with tickets costing $25 and $20.
“Star Search” winner Sawyer Brown, with opening acts Lee Roy Parnell and Grace Askew, take the main stage on Aug. 26. Tickets are $25 and $20.
Billy Currington is the headliner that kicks off the fair’s main stage acts on Aug. 24. Tickets for his show are $35 and $30.
Livestock competitions are scheduled each day from Aug. 24-Sept. 2. An expanded Illinois Food and Wine Products Show will feature more than 50 businesses that make Illinois-made food products inside the fair’s new Expo Building Aug. 31-Sept. 1.
In addition to 10 wineries participating, cooking demonstrations focusing on how to best use Illinois products have been added.
For show tickets, and complete schedules for competitions and exhibits, go to www.duquoinstatefair.net or calling 618-542-1535.