The DuQuoin State Fair was founded in 1923 by local businessman William R. "W.R." Hayes, who owned the fair and ran it. (It did not become run by the state of Illinois as a true "state fair" until the 1980s; it is now officially called the Illinois State Fair in DuQuoin, as opposed to the longtime one at state capital Springfield.) At the start Hayes had a half-mile harness-racing track on his 30-acre site, with wooden grandstands that seated 3000. In 1939 Hayes started buying adjoining stripmined land to develop its potential as parkland, replanting it and turning the strip pits into family-friendly ponds and lakes. He eventually expanded his little fairgrounds into 1200 acres.
The DuQuoin "Magic Mile" racetrack was constructed on reclaimed stripmine land in 1946 by W.R. Hayes. The track's first national championship race was held in September 1948. In the second race on October 10, popular AAA National driving champion Ted Horn was killed in the fourth turn when a spindle on his championship car broke. The national championship race for the USAC Silver Crown dirt cars is held in his honor.
In 1957 the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds became the third longtime home of the Hambletonian, America's premier harness racing event (established 1926). The Hambletonian was run on a smaller oval track completely inside the Magic Mile track. The grandstands and bleachers were expanded to seat 18,000. When the Hambletonian left DuQuoin after 1980 to be raced at the Meadowlands, the Fair became the home of the World Trotting Derby. This race was held from 1981 until it was discontinued after the 2009 race. The smaller oval was planted over with grass, and trotting still takes place back at the old oval. Both off-track and on-track betting are allowed.
Music concerts are also held at the track, especially during the state fair (in 2012 from August 25 through Labor Day, September 3). The stage is at center at the foot of the grandstand, backed up against the protective cyclone fence that shields the stands from the track.