State Fairs in Springfield and Du Quoin will be canceled this year by executive order of the governor due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state made the announcement Friday afternoon in a news release, noting the decision “has prompted the Department of Agriculture to offer a safe, creative way to ensure youth exhibitors still get a chance to showcase their hard work.”

That will come in the form of a Junior Livestock Expo in Springfield in September. Illinois exhibitors ages 8-21 can show their animals at that event. The 4-H General Project Show will take place virtually, with premiums and ribbons distributed by the ag department, according to the news release. Entry details for the events are forthcoming.

The Du Quoin and Springfield Fairs attracted more than 600,000 visitors combined in 2019 and are scheduled to return in August 2021. Last year, the Springfield Fair set records for the grandstand and near record numbers for attendance.

State Rep. Tim Butler, R-Springfield, took issue with the governor’s unilateral decision to cancel the Fairs by executive order.

“I am tremendously disappointed the governor has canceled the 2020 Illinois State Fair,” Butler said in a statement. “Through state law, the General Assembly has mandated that Illinois shall have state fairs in Springfield and Du Quoin. This decision is yet another one in which the governor has exceeded his authority during the pandemic and will be in violation of state law.”

While Butler said he “fully understands” the health impact of COVID-19, he added “this cancellation is another serious blow to the economy of Central Illinois.”

The cancellation of the Springfield Fair is the first since 1942-1945, during which period the fairgrounds were used as a World War II U.S. Army Airforce supply depot, according to a news release. The Springfield Fair was also canceled in 1862 due to the Civil War and was replaced in 1893 by the World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago.