The 121st Grand American World Trapshooting Championships will be held in Missouri this year instead of at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta.
Advocates of the games in Randolph County were crushed this week when the Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced that due to COVID-19 restrictions the games could not be held in Illinois.
The trapshooting competition, which draws competitors literally from around the world to Randolph County and southern Illinois, spans several days and draws more than 5,000 competitors and spectators to 20-plus events.
The 2020 games will be held Aug. 5 through Aug. 15 at the home grounds of the Missouri Trapshooters Association in Linn Creek, Missouri, at the Lake of the Ozarks.
The question for Illinois was whether the state would permit the large gathering of people before the state had achieved Phase 5 in the COVID-19 recovery plan. Until Phase 5, no more than 50 people are recommended to be in one place at a time. Earlier this week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced that both the Springfield and Du Quoin state fairs were being canceled in 2020.
On Monday, the answer came. Public health concerns would prevent the trapshooting event from being allowed to take place.
"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. "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 is the largest shooting event of its kind. 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.
State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo), whose district includes the World Shooting Complex, said in a news release he is "bitterly disappointed" at Gov. J.B. Pritzker's "inexplicable decision" to refuse the Grand American from being held in Randolph County.
The decision, he said, will deprive southern Illinois of tens of millions of dollars and undermines the very viability of the shooting complex.
Schimpf said Pritzker ignored the urgings from both Republicans and Democrats.
"The manner in which this decision was made, from ignoring logic to disregarding the input of local leaders, shows an utter disregard for the people of Southern Illinois and calls into question Gov. Pritzker's ability to lead our state," Schimpf said in the release.
The Amateur Trapshooting Association, which puts on the Grand American, had requested that Illinois make a decision by June 15, saying if it can't be held in Sparta they will move it to another state.
State Rep. Nathan Reitz (D-Steeleville) said this isn't just about one year.
"By keeping the Grand (American) in Sparta, we are ensuring that the complex remains open as an economic driver for the area and for southern Illinoisans to enjoy," Reitz said in an earlier release.