By STEVE BINDER
CARBONDALE, Ill. — Regional and state officials have combined efforts this year to help make Illinois food products such as horseradish, peaches, hot peppers and, for the first time, wine, the star attractions at the Du Quoin State Fair.
Businesses that produce Illinois-made food products will be able to showcase the fruits of their labor free of charge during the fair’s 2013 Illinois Food and Wine Products Show, Aug. 31-Sept. 1, inside the new Expo Building on the fairgrounds.
Also new to the products show this year, in addition to 10 wineries hosted by the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Assoc., will be cooking demonstrations focusing on the Illinois food products for sale during the event. The Southern Illinois University Carbondale Entrepreneurship and Business Development unit and the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) are partnering to showcase Illinois food products, and allowing businesses to do so for free.
Those wanting to participate have until July 29 to file a brief application with the SIUC unit by calling 618-453-3805 or by going to www.siusbdc.org
Bob Flider, director of the IDOA, noted the significance of officials helping to promote state products and of consumers buying them.
“The Illinois Food and Wine Products Show at the Du Quoin State Fair is another great way to showcase what Illinois has to offer and to continue creating consumer awareness to ‘Buy Illinois,’” he said.
“If every Illinois household would dedicate just $10 of their existing weekly grocery budget toward buying Illinois products, more than $2.4 billion would be generated annually for the state’s economy.”
The basic requirements to participate in the expo are broad, with an Illinois food product defined as anything produced, processed or packaged in the state, or a product made for which company headquarters are located within Illinois. Those participating will offer product samples as well as items for sale, said Robyn Laur Russell, director of business development and international trade at SIUC.
“I am excited to see the Illinois Food and Wine Products Show continue to grow and flourish,” she explained. “Along with faithful returnees from previous years, each show brings new food and wine clientele. Recognizing these agribusinesses as a vital part of our state’s economy is one of our main roles in fostering the ‘buy local foods’ momentum throughout the state.”
She noted the only expense to business owners will be the cost of providing samples. Wineries also will offer not only bottles for sale, but tastings, along with information about which wines pair best with certain foods in conjunction with the cooking demonstrations.