In honor of the approaching school year, we want to present a multiple choice quiz about the Illinois State Fair.

Everyone in the Land of Lincoln should go to the Illinois State Fair because:

A. It is a showcase for our agricultural industry -- not to mention the famous butter cow.

B. It offers varied family entertainment.

C. The state needs the money.

D. All of the above.

Illinois taxpayers continue to support not one but two state fairs because:

A. We have always done it.

B. Politicians need a place to hand out their printed emery boards and bumper stickers.

C. The fairs make lots of money.

D. None of the above.

If you were expecting trick questions -- or trick answers -- we hope you are not too disappointed. The answers are "all of the above" and "none of the above."

The Illinois State Fair has its "preview night" today and gets in full swing Friday with the official ribbon cutting and the first day of livestock shows and harness racing.

The fair does highlight our state's rich, diverse agricultural industry, as state fairs around the country do. Attending the fair is a tradition for many families. It's more than just a farm fair -- not that there's anything wrong with farming. There are numerous exhibits, varied entertainment, amusement park rides and more food than you can shake a corndog on a stick at.

We don't want to discourage people from attending, because the state needs all the money it can get from admission fees and other fair-related revenue.

But each year the State Fair in Springfield as well as the DuQuoin State Fair in Southern Illinois are big money losers -- a financial sore spot for years that is particularly troublesome in the current fiscal crisis.

In Fiscal Year 2009, the Illinois State Fair lost nearly $3.5 million and the DuQuoin State Fair lost $646,644, according to the Illinois Auditor General's Biennial Audit of the fairs.

Although the state has long supported the fair in Springfield, it has only backed the DuQuoin State Fair since 1986, when Illinois bought the financially troubled fair.

Although attempts have been made to reduce losses and FY 2009 was actually a comparatively "good" year for the State Fair (it lost more than $4.5 million in FY 2008), more should be done in keeping with the intent of a 1993 bill that called on the fairs to be self-sufficient.

That means, as recommended by the Illinois Policy Institute, the state should look at scaling back the fair, particularly events which are the biggest money losers. The state must learn to live within its means -- and that means state fairs, too.