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Illinois State Fair Kicks Off In Springfield

Illinois State Fair

A Dorset breed show sheep wears a blanket and hood to keep clean at the Illinois State Fair August 17, 2005 in Springfield, Illinois. The Illinois State Fair, held in the state capital located in central Illinois, is celebrating its 152nd year. (Credit: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — The carnival rides, the greasy food and the agriculture exhibits are all ready as the Illinois State Fair opens in Springfield.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports, the State Fair kicked off Thursday night with the annual Twilight Parade, and it featured some politicians throwing off their suits and ties to have fun.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports

Ace of Base blared from the back of a pickup truck as the Jesse White Tumblers, including the 77-year-old Secretary of State himself, wowed the crowd with mid-air flips off mobile trampolines.

White ran from one side of the road to the next setting up equipment, spotting and holding banners. He didn’t do any stunts at the parade, but he’s still got it in him.

“When we do our normal routine, I do a handstand and the kids go through my legs, and I put my feet together and do a somersault with my feet,” White said. “I did it earlier today at the library.”

As for the fair itself, which has come under scrutiny for losing millions year after year, White says Illinois can afford a State Fair for its residents, and it doesn’t say much about a state that can’t.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka scoffed at the mere notion of canceling the fair due to financial concerns. Topinka, who’s responsible for paying the state’s bills, says she’s excited for the activities in which she’ll partake.

“It’s wonderful,” she exclaimed. “We want to have all the organizations out here. It’s a wonderful way to mix and mingle, I get a shot at trying to milk the cow again, and maybe try the goat. I’ve not been too successful with the goat. I’ve at least gotten milk out of the cow.”

While Topinka milks real cows, the famed butter cow is also sure to attract its fair share of attention, as usual.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports

The butter cow been a staple of the Illinois State Fair since 1922, but this year it’s been introduced differently.

The design is 600 pounds of unsalted butter in the shape, obviously, of a 600 pound cow. Fair officials ordinarily wait until the sculpture is finished to unveil it, but organizers this year decided to unveil it early so fairgoers can watch sculptor Sharon Bumann finish the cow in person.

So, where does she get her inspiration? A real cow, of course.

“She’s a championship cow,” says Bumann. “She’s 10 years old, which is really rare for a cow to be 10 years old and be producing calves, and milking and that sort of thing. She’s a show cow, and she’s produced great babies.”

Bumann is dressed from head to toe in thermal clothing, as the butter cow is housed in a see-through cooler at a constant 39 degrees (F). Bumann says maintaining that temperature is essential, because if the butter gets too cold it turns brittle. If it’s too warm, it melts.

The State Fair runs through Aug. 21.