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Indiana State Fair expands to 17 Days
Attendance down 22,000 from 12-day fair
By Lisa and Robert Limerick
Spins, turns, flips, and rolls are the norm in Indianapolis for Indianapolis during the 500 but for 17-days this past August, the description could have also applied to the Indiana State Fair. The fair was held August 6-22 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and was expanded for a record number of days. The fair was previously run for eight days then fair organizers went to twelve days in 2009 and found record breaking success so they to expanded to seventeen days this year.
The twelve-day run in 2009 had a total guest count of 974,000 while this year,s fair was down 22,000 guests for a total of approximately 952,000. The best day of the fair was the first Saturday with 79,561 people in attendance Rascal Flatts on the main fairground stage.
Some speculated that attendance numbers were down this year due to Indiana schools going back during the fair, resulting in many children not getting a chance to attend on weekdays. Weather was also a factor. During the 17-day run, temperatures exceeded 90 degrees nine of the seventeen days and on several occasions there were heat warnings posted.
The fair celebrated its 154th Anniversary this year. When it began in 1852, the fair was held all over the State during it,s first 40 years until 1892 when it moved to its current home at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The earliest fairs had unusual contests that rewarded patrons for best underwear, false teeth, artificial limbs, as well as best coffin and hearse.
Elvis was in the building during the 1956 fair and he did one of his first television interviews at the communication building on the property right after his popular song Heartbreak Hotel had been released. The Beatles were at the State Fair in 1964 and they performed for 30,000 fans during two sold out shows. Five sitting presidents have attended the fair in its long history. Presidents Bush, Clinton, Kennedy, and Franklin Roosevelt have been guests and Woodrow Wilson gave a speech to 40,000 people on what is now known as Great Tuesday to many.
The Indiana State Fair,s goal is to provide fairgoers with a great customer-friendly experience. To this end, smoking was reserved to certain restricted areas, leaving the rest of the grounds smoke free including the Hoosier Lottery Grandstands. The fair provided Smart Phone users with a new app that included show times, locations of food vendors and a map of the grounds. The app also had midway ride ratings, ticket information and other useful information.
There were multiple shuttles that took fairgoers around the ground, making several stops. For a very affordable $.75 you could ride an entire loop, see everything on the grounds and get off of the shuttle at designated areas. Fairgoers enjoyed the rest and cool breeze while riding. Lisa Rickles of Kentucky commented that "you would have to come here for a solid week to experience this whole fair and they do a great job to make sure everyone has something to do".
Cost of admission this year was eight dollars for adults but several discount days were held including carload day where up to ten people paid just one price to enter and Pepsi,s popular bring two empty soda cans and get a discount day. You could also purchase a $5 coupon book at the fair gift shop that had over $100 dollars in savings. The coupon offered discounts on everything from Corn Dogs to Sunglasses. Another popular savings event was $2 Taste of the Midway Tuesdays in which you could get $2 portions from food vendors throughout the fair and $2 midway tickets. Fairgoers commented that it gave them a chance to sample foods they may have otherwise not tried.
North American Midway Entertainment provided the rides and games for the event with several of their units in attendance. NAME was created in 2004 by the Cypress Group and currently has over 200 state of the art rides. NAME plays over 115 events a year in 20 states and four Canadian Provinces, including 10 of the Top 50 Fairs in America. NAME prides themselves on ride inspectors, smoke-free kiddie-lands and the Size Wize system that creates uniform height requirements for all of their rides. NAME offers a traveling school that operates during the summer. Students have the opportunity to take field trips in the cities and towns they visit. The school claims its students usually have higher standardized test results than brick and mortar school students.
NAME brought over 40 rides to the Indiana State Fair this year. Mid-America Shows, Farrow, and Astro units made up the midway for the event. Some of the rides included the Blizzard Himalaya, Chance Century Wheel and Pharaoh,s Fury, a Darton Cliff Hanger, the Crazy Mouse coaster, a Larson International Fireball, the Freak Out, a Giant Gondola Wheel from Mulligan Engineering, two Scooters, Mega Drop, Mega Loop, the Remix, and the Thunder Bolt. Some of the classics included the Round Up, Sizzler, the Tilt a Whirl, Yo-Yo, two slides and the Wisdom Tornado. The White Water Flume was also on the grounds and it was well received with the high temperatures this year. That ride was also popular with those standing at the bottom of the hill hoping to get splashed.
Some of the Kiddie-land rides included Sellner Bear Affair, Berry Go Round, and Dizzy Dragons, several Bumble Bees and Raiders, Rockin Tubs, Convoy, Speedway, Samba Balloon, two Merry Go Rounds, Hampton Autos and Cycles, and a Wisdom Orient Express. Funhouses and dark rides included the Cuckoo Haus, International Combo Funhouse,s, and the Tomb of Doom.
The food at the Indiana State Fair was amazing enough to make Jenny Craig lose her mind. There were all of the usual fair foods but this fair brought out a number of wild and crazy foods for fairgoers to try. From caramel apples to fried zucchini, if you wanted I (or even if you didn,t), they had it with over a hundred food vendors offering products. Some of the unique and popular vendors on site were Jessop,s Concessions with their Butterscotch Popcorn and other sweet treats; Jessop,s has been at every fair since the first. Carousel Concessions may have had the most unique foods on the property with their new product Deep Fried Butter, Chocolate Covered Bacon, Deep Fried Pepsi, the Krispy Kreme doughnut burger, Orangeade, and Deep Fried Candy bars. Carousel led the fair in deep fried treats but others popular deep fried items included corn on the cob, Twinkies, Pizza, Mac n Cheese, Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches and Cookie Dough. Dr. Vegetables had a unit serving up orders of favorite vegetables deep fried and seasoned to a crispy delicious golden brown. One of their unique treats was deep fried sauerkraut balls and fairgoers we interviewed were split down the middle as to whether they liked them or not.
Other foods included Pigs in a Pancake, chinese food, beef tenderloin, ribs, Italian food including chicken parmesan sandwiches. Two vendors with built in booths on the fairgrounds were the Fairgrounds Bakery making sweet and delicious treats including cookies and brownies and the Farmer,s Market Cafe which gave fairgoers the opportunity for a healthy alternatives such as fresh salads and sandwiches made with local Indiana produce.
If food and rides didn,t give fairgoers enough to do, there were plenty of other activities this year. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniel,s wife Cheri hosted the 6th annual Heartland Walk for health around the Fairgrounds to promote healthy living. A new annual feature started this year to highlight Indiana,s global ties. Bridges to Japan featured food, culture, and even Sumo wrestling to promote a healthy relationship with the country. The Indiana Transportation Museum hosted a Fair Train that provided guests an alternative to get to the fair. The antique train picked guests up from one side of Indianapolis and dropped them off near the entrance to the fairgrounds and giving riders an interesting way to get to the event.
Lucas Oil hosted several motor sports events during the fair including the Indy Super Truck and Tractor Pull, and a Demolition Derby on the final night of the event. The derby put some of Indiana,s best or worst drivers in a state championship finale that paid $1700 dollars to the winner and had almost a near capacity crowd. Demo drivers competed in three divisions including the outlaw class. During lulls between heats PorkChopp the Clown entertained the crowd with his mini monster truck and by telling jokes about cops and doing a pretty awesome Michael Jackson dance routine. In a touching moment Porkchopp gave a little girl a brand new bicycle after performing several tricks on it.
The Boy Scouts unveiled a new bridge to celebrate their 100th anniversary and plan to use it year round for scouts to earn merit badges. Habitat for Humanity built a five bedroom house at the fairgrounds during the first fifteen days of the fair and planned to move the home to its permanent home after the fair. Near the agricultural buildings there was a 25ft sculpture of Grant Wood,s famous American gothic portrait that guests could take a photo with and a cheese carving of several different prominent people and features. There was a daily parade that included a clown band and other interesting entries. Marching bands took center stage during the annual marching band contest and they really showed how to get down.
Agriculture and animals were still the main feature of the Indiana State Fair this year with over twenty animal shows held during the event. Shows ranged from cats to cattle. Tractors from several companies were represented during the fair that kids and adults both admired. Several car shows were held during the event and on the final day an open class show with everything from Corvettes, an antique fire truck and several street rods were on display. Riley,s fun park was held to give kids some fun off the midway and included go-carts, pony rides and several other activities. The final night of the fair also included an amazing fireworks show that lit the fairgrounds for almost thirty minutes after a few minor technical difficulties hampered the start of the show.
Music was popular and included major acts from all musical genres. Country music had the majority of the shows with acts such as Rascal Flatts, Kellie Pickler, Chris Young, Keith Urban, Sugarland, Little Big Town, Bucky Covington, James Otto, and Darryl Worely plus other country artists on the free stages. Kiss played to a sold out crowd and did not disappoint, they still know how to rock with their classics and new music.
Tweens packed the grandstands for popular star Selena Gomez who worked the crowd like a seasoned veteran and Jeff Dunham brought his friends Peanut, Walter, Jose Jalapeno, Bubba J and everyone,s favorite terrorist Achmed to entertain the guests. Entertain they did, hours after the show ended you could still hear show goers repeating Achmed,s favorite quote "I Keel You". Gospel, Hispanic and Latin music took to the forefront on Sundays with full days of music to keep people dancing and entertained.
The fair,s theme was Year Of Pigs and was sponsored by the Indiana Pork Producers. Indiana is the fifth largest producer of pork and pork is a three billion dollar industry. In honor of the hog there were displays and activities throughout the fairgrounds including pig racing, hog shows, cooking contests and the Indiana Pork Producers food booths with sandwiches, chops, and the Garbage Burger that had a pork chop on the bottom covered with pulled pork on top.
In the fair gift shop, which was full of swine decorations, you could purchase hats and shirts with pigs and novelty items that included Gummy Bacon, bacon dental floss and a pig themed board game. A Kiss a Pig fundraiser was also held during the fair. Next year,s theme will be chosen in the near future.
The 2011 Indiana State Fair will run August 5-21 and will once again be 17 days. Fair directors will decide during the next few months whether the fair will run 17 days after 2011.