Indianapolis - Record-breaking summer heat continued to affect Midwestern fairs this year, including the Indiana State Fair, driving attendance down by 14% from last year. Total attendance was 748,171, down from last year's turnout of 870,052. (#22 ranking in MCW's 2006 Top 50).
Gate admission for the Aug. 8 - 19 event was $8, advance admission tickets were sold for $7 through all Indiana Wal-Mart Stores, CVS Pharmacy Stores and the Indiana Farm Bureau. Kids 5 and under were admitted free and parking was also free. A free park and ride service was also available from nearby Glendale Mall.
2007's theme was the "Year Of The Corn". Corn is Indiana's top grown crop and the fair has used the theme to highlight an agricultural product so important to the state. "The Indiana State Fair provides the perfect backdrop to remind
Hoosiers how important agriculture and, specifically, corn is to our state," said State Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye. The corn theme was integrated into many of the fair's activities including a celebrity corn-husking contest, corn memorabilia at the "Indiana Curiosities" exhibit, an American Cornhole Tournament official competition and a redecorated, two-story Corn basket Gift Shop. Indiana. The winner of the fair's signature food contest? Corn Fritters with Spicy Cajun Corn Dip.
Musical entertainment was also a big draw for the fair, led by Rascal Flatts with a 17,000 seat sellout for the third straight year. Other acts included Casting Crowns and Jeremy Camp - Aug. 9, the Jonas Brothers presented by VOICE.TV - Aug. 13, Kenny Rogers and The Oak Ridge Boys - Aug. 14, David Cassidy - Aug. 15, American Idols Live Tour 2007 - Aug. 16 and Screamfest '07 featuring T.I., Ciara, T-Pain, Lloyd and Yung Joc on Aug. 17.
Other free entertainment included a Demolition Derby on August 19th, Indiana Curiosities: A Walk Thru the Wacky Side of Hoosier Life, Kachunga and the Alligator, "Tapestry of Color" Brown County artists exhibit, The Pork Chop Revue featuring Oink the Singing Pig and the International Circus Hall of Fame Circus Parade on Aug. 13.
Free stage entertainment, on the WFMS Free stage, featured daily country, Christian and Hispanic Shows that drew nice crowds. Another highlight was the appearance of the Russ Parr morning radio show on opening day, August 8th.
The fair garnered lots of national media attention this year by becoming the first fair to require its concessionaires to use trans-fat free oil affecting the fair's 120 food vendors. "We believe this is a step forward for our fair and the customers we serve," State Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye said. Dave Schlabach, executive director of the National Independent Concessionaires Association said "All the concessionaires I've talked with say their customers like it better. Whatever questions there were about the taste of zero trans fat oils have all but subsided. I don't seem to hear it anymore." Several other fairs followed suit this year in banning trans-fat cooking oils but the most media attention belonged to the Indiana State Fair, who was first with the new requirement, receiving coverage in the New York Times and USA Today.
North American Midway Entertainment provided the carnival midway, featuring numerous pay-one-price specials on weekdays and closing Sunday. Prices ranged from $20 - $23 with the exception of the kiddie ride-only band selling for $10 on Wednesday. Amber Swedgan, NAME spokesman, said the show provided 45 rides this year, including a new Zamperla Spinning Crazy Mouse Coaster. Other rides of note included the Fireball, Whitewater Flume and Remix 2.
In addition to the rides, the show introduced 5 new Waymatic food trailers: 1 pizza trailer, 2 corn dog trailers and 2 U-Make-It Slushie Labs. Another innovation this year was a smoke-free kiddieland area. Visitors were encouraged to keep the area smoke-free said Swedgan "for the comfort of all families and our little visitors".
Swedgan said NAME was "faced with some unusually hot weather, which hurt attendance and spending but otherwise the fair was exceptional as always."
The Indiana State Fair has an overall budget of 9.5 million dollars. The 2008 fair will be Aug. 6 - 17.