- Associated Press - Thursday, August 11, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The 2016 Illinois State Fair kicked off Thursday with the annual Twilight Parade and the unveiling of the traditional butter cow, which this year is named Creampuff.

At the front of the parade was Gov. Bruce Rauner, who said it was appropriate to hold the fair despite the state’s fiscal problems.

“The fair is a wonderful time to celebrate,” Rauner told the State Journal-Register. “We can always find time to celebrate what’s wonderful about our great state of Illinois.”

The parade, which stepped off a half-hour earlier than in the past, also had fewer entries than in previous years. However, spectators lined Springfield’s Ninth Street as parade marshals Dan Hampton, Otis Wilson and Steve McMichael - members of 1985 Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears - passed.

The parade ended at the fairgrounds, where the public encountered another change from previous years, a $5 gate fee on a night that traditionally allowed free admission.

Rauner said he’s continuing to focus on creating a fair foundation to raise private funds to pay for repairs and upgrades to fair facilities. There is an estimated $180 million worth of deferred maintenance needed to the fairgrounds. Legislation to create the foundation was introduced last spring, but went nowhere.

This year’s butter cow is a 700-pound Jersey, a switch from the Holsteins that served as a model in the past for the sculpture in the Dairy Building.

The cow was sculpted for the first time for Illinois by Sarah Pratt of West Des Moines, Iowa. She’s been the official butter sculptor at the Iowa State Fair since 2006 and took over the Illinois job from Sharon BuMann of New York, who retired.

Pratt was not on hand for the unveiling of her work. Instead she was at Thursday’s opening of the Iowa State Fair.

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Information from: The State Journal-Register, https://www.sj-r.com

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