CLARK COUNTY, Ill. (WTHI) - County Fairs across the Wabash Valley have come across this decision at one time or another: Should fair-goers have access to beer at the fair?
That question was on the table late last week in Clark County, Illinois. The Fair Board went to the Clark County Board on Friday, requesting permission for a beer tent. The results: 2 yes's, 4 no's, and one absent.
News 10 spoke with Fair President Chris O’Rourke. He says the Clark County Fair has never had a beer tent.
But, that's not for a lack of trying. He says the fair board has tried to get one three times, never getting approval.
O’Rourke says there were a few benefits the fair board was looking forward to if the beer tent got the go-ahead. This includes a bump in profits, as well as safety.
O’Rourke explains, “There's a lot of stuff that's coming into a fairgrounds, and it's not only our fair, but it's everyone's fair, where they've got it in their cups and everything else. So it was going to be a lot safer to be able to monitor it in one spot than have it strung out all over the entire fairgrounds."
O’Rourke says there is a way to go through the city of Marshall to get a beer tent. But, he says it's too close to fair week to start that process for this year's fair.
Marshall Resident Tim Bloodworth admits it's usually the food the lures him to the Clark County Fair. But, a beer tent could have been another draw for him and other fairgoers.
Bloodworth shares, "I don't understand why they wouldn't allow to have a beer tent at the fair. At least one year, to try it."
Bloodworth says he’s noticed fewer people going to the fair, and with Illinois’ budget issues the decision to opt out of a beer tent could really hurt the organization.
Bloodworth says, "County fairs are not getting much money or getting funded. So you have an organization that's trying to make money and fund itself, but they have the upper hand and want to vote to deny it."
After speaking with several community members against the beer tent they did express some concerns. One of them is the thought of having alcohol present in the middle of the midway, fair activities, or where children are present. However, O’Rourke says the actual plan was to have the beer tent on the track, and secluded from the rest of the fair. The tent would have also only been in place for one night, for when the fair’s headlining act was in town.
O’Rourke says it's discouraging this test run didn't get the green light.
He shares, "For whatever reason on their part they, they voted it 'no'. I mean and that's their prerogative. I don't know if there's a legal reason that I don't know about, I don't know if it's a morality issue. I'm not sure where it’s at."
But even though the beer tent isn't a "go" for this year, doesn't mean the idea is dead.
O’Rourke shared, "With the time constraint that I’m at now, we're probably just going to let it go for this year, and look at doing things a bit different for next year."
News 10 spoke with County Board Chairman John Hammond. He says he can't speak for the whole board.
However, Hammond says he voted ‘no’ because he feels the fair is a family event, and he doesn’t think children need to be around alcohol.
O’Rourke says the Clark County Fair runs from August 12th through the 18th.
To view the Clark County Fair Book, click here.