WSIU Public Broadcasting Celebrates History of Du Quoin State Fair with Television Special

Oct 2, 2018

Relive fond memories of Illinois' historic Du Quoin State Fair with a special broadcast produced by WSIU Public Television as part of the Illinois Bicentennial 1818-2018 celebration.  Du Quoin State Fair Memories airs Sunday, October 14th at 3 p.m. and Monday, October 22nd at 9 p.m. on WSIU TV. 

The full episode will be available for viewing on YouTube the day after the television broadcast. The one-hour program features a panel discussion with Jane Hayes Rader and Carole Hayes Hill, granddaughters of Fair founder W.R. Hayes, and former Fair manager Fred Huff.

“Everybody who lives in Du Quoin has their own set of memories,” said Jane Hayes Rader. “Horse races, barbeques, fiddlesticks, corndogs, and being at a night show seven nights a week.  That’s my memory of growing up at the Du Quoin State Fair.”

Organized by Du Quoin bottling company executive "W.R." Hayes and local business owners in 1923, the Du Quoin State Fair has drawn millions of people to the southern Illinois community for premier harness and motor sporting events, world-class musical entertainment, livestock judging and farming exhibitions, and an expansive carnival midway.  The Fair has been operated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture since the state assumed ownership the facility in 1986.

“Growing up out here at the Fairgrounds was fabulous,” said Carol Hayes Hill. “I mean, how many kids can grow up with a carnival in their backyards for ten days?”

WSIU's Jak Tichenor hosts the program which features rare archival footage and photographs of the 1,200 acre fairgrounds throughout its 96-year history including the prestigious Hambletonian harness race held at Du Quoin from 1957 to 1980. The Fair was also famous for its nightly entertainment line-up that featured stars like Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Liza Minnelli, Sonny & Cher, Johnny Carson, Carol Channing, and many more.

Country music artists Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Roy Clark, Lynn Anderson, and Tammy Wynette were also big draws at Du Quoin. “Don Hayes (son of W.R. Hayes) was one of the first to bring country music to the Du Quoin State Fair starting in 1965” said former manager Fred Huff. “The Du Quoin State Fair has always been one of the most successful and well-attended events in Southern Illinois.”

Recorded before a live audience on Sunday, August 26th at the Du Quoin State Fair, the program has been officially recognized as a signature event of the Illinois Bicentennial Commission.

“We were blessed to have been here from almost the beginning and to have been a part of it and you don’t get over it, said Jane Hayes Rader.  “When I drive through that gate, I get a lump in my throat.  It’s coming back to a big part of my heritage.”

Contact Jak Tichenor by phone at (618) 453-6187 or email for more information.

About WSIU Public Broadcasting

WSIU Public Broadcasting is licensed to the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University and is an integral part of the College of Mass Communication & Media Arts on the Carbondale campus. The WSIU stations reach more than three million people across five states and beyond through three digital public television channels, three public radio stations, a radio information service, a website, and an education and community outreach department.