SPARTA, Ill. – Southern Illinois leaders are speaking out after the state announced that Sparta would not be allowed to host the annual Grand American World Trapshooting Championships for the first time in more than a decade. The event will relocate to Linn Creek, Missouri.
“The governor comes here at 2 o’clock yesterday and after he’s gone and on the road again and IDPH makes the announcement that the Grand American has been canceled. So, again, I think it shows a real lack of integrity and a lack of courage on behalf of the governor,” said Illinois Representative Terri Bryant.
The event generally hosts about 5,000 competitors and visitors from around the world
“Compounding the pandemic and the loss of the Grand, it may close a few stores,” said Sparta City Manager Corey Rheinecker.
Bryant said the event brings in between $20 million and $30 million in local revenue to the entire region.
“It’s on top of losing the Du Quoin State Fair, so within one week, we got a massive kick in the stomach twice,” she said.
The city of Sparta says it will lose out on somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000, which is basically the cost of one employee.
Representative Bryant says she looked over the 41-page mitigation plan that was put together in just three days by the Amateur Trapshooting Association, which hosts the event at the request of the governor.
“I don’t think they understand how it’s set up out there,” Rheinecker said. “I think if they would’ve come to look and went through the process with us I think they would’ve had a different attitude towards it.”
Rheinecker says shooting by nature is separated, no spectators would have been allowed, and they also canceled all before and after festivities.
Bryant says she understands the concern of COVID-19 even though she says that the region would have been in Phase 4 of reopening during the time of the event. She adds she’s disappointed in the way the decision was made and how it was announced.
“There’s value and worth to every citizen in the state of Illinois and right now he’s treated us as though we have no worth or value,” she said.
Fox 2 reached out to the Governor Pritzker’s office and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to get a response. The DNR released the following statement:
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) today announced the 121st Grand American World Trapshooting Championships, traditionally held at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex (WSRC) in Sparta, will not take place at the venue due to public health concerns related to the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
“The health and safety of participants who would attend, as well as spectators and staff, must remain top-of-mind,” said IDNR Director Colleen Callahan. “Of course, we’ll miss seeing participants and enjoying the camaraderie and sport from those who compete but, after considering recommendations and concerns from the Illinois Department of Public Health, know that safeguarding the health of attendees is the right decision in light of the ongoing global pandemic.”
The Grand American, the largest shooting event of its kind, spans several days and is home to more than 20 events, drawing shooters from across the globe. With more than 5,000 competitors and spectators expected to attend this year, overall attendance and international travel factored into the decision not to host this year’s event.
“Without a vaccine and proven treatment, we must continue to take measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “Large gatherings of people originating from different states and countries could undo the amazing work of Illinoisans to contain and control the spread of the virus. We support this difficult decision to protect the people of our state.”
Other concerns taken into consideration included the ability to screen individuals entering and leaving the complex, controlling the size of groups that are gathering in the campground, and the limited health care capacity in the immediate area.