DU QUOIN — Josh Gross grew up in Pinckneyville and lives in Du Quoin.

He has a history and a family tradition of attending the Du Quoin State Fair. Some of his favorite memories are of the fair. He recalled attending the World Trotting Derby with his father as a child.

“I would pick the horses and he would place the bets,” Gross said, adding that they never won much. “My first concert was Stevie Ray Vaughn with Double Trouble and the Fabulous Thunderbirds.”

Now, as of Friday, he is set to make new memories as manager of the Du Quoin State Fair.

On April 3, Acting Director of Agriculture John Sullivan announced the hiring of Gross and Kevin Gordon, manager of the Illinois State Fair in Springfield. Gross replaces Tibretta Reiman.

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He has some goals for the fair. The first is to build momentum and excitement for the fair, something Gross believes has been lost of the past couple decades.

“My kids are 11 and 13. I want to them to say when they’re 40 that they remember the fair and it was great,” Gross said.

He said the fair is important to the region, so he also hopes to generate more revenue. People used to come to the Fair a minimum of five nights, because “that’s just what you did.”

“Today, people come out once, then they won’t come back because it’s not as exciting as it used to be," Gross said. "That’s what we have to bring back."

Other goals include bringing back the large picnics, such as the union picnic on Labor Day or the Continental Tire picnic. He also wants people to be excited to come to grandstand events, like races and concerts.

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When asked about the entertainment lineup, Gross said he could not comment but expects to have a release in the coming weeks. Although he could not say who was coming, he did say the lineup will include four country acts, two rock and one Christian. They have agreements with three of the four country entertainers, but still need to get signed contracts.

“We are waiting on the fourth country act, then we can move on to rock and roll,” he said, adding that they have some good possibilities.

In the past, Illinois Lottery has sponsored a VIP tent for grandstand events. Gross hopes to get that back. He also hopes that businesses will buy tickets for employees.

A large whiteboard in his office is tracking grandstand events and other major components of fair planning. He added that there is still a lot of work that needs done, including work on the grounds.

Visitors to the fairground are likely to encounter pot holes or notice that stables have areas that need a little paint. Gross has $750,000 to spend on roads. He will contact IDOT to about the plan for repairs. The weather will have to cooperate, too.

“Car Craft (Street Machine Nationals) is coming in, and I hope to have some roads fixed for them,” he said. “We are going to have to address the horse barns.”

Street Machine Nationals will be June 23 at Du Quoin.

He added that Kevin Hodges, who is in charge of maintenance, has a list “a mile long” of repairs and work to do.

Gross admits they are running a little behind in some areas, but everyone expected that.

“The team is focused. Everybody out here is motivated, to say the least,” Gross said.

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Gross resigned his position of Perry County Clerk at the county board meeting Thursday afternoon, saying talks for this position have been underway for months.

“I spent the last year as president of the state clerk’s association and was involved in rewriting election law. I didn’t know what more I could do in that role,” Gross said.