It's August, and that means it's time for the Indiana State Fair, or as I like to call it, The Indiana Festival of Complete Awesomeness! This is the chance for you to see what's happening throughout the state.
We're one of the leaders of crop and animal production — in many cases, Indiana feeds the world, and this is a chance for us non-farmers to go see what our friends in the country have been doing all year long. If you've never been to the fair, it's one of the things every Hoosier should do. There are even discounted ticket days available.
- This year is the Year of Popcorn. The Fair has an annual theme (last year was my favorite, the Year of the Dairy Cow). This year, to celebrate the fact that Indiana is the second leading popcorn producer in the country, there will be several popcorn-related exhibits, activities, contests, and well, popcorn for sale.
- The World's Largest Popcorn Ball. We will have a 5,200 pound popcorn ball — that's 2.5 tons! — on display this year. It will be unveiled on Saturday, August 3rd at the Ball State Ag/Hort Building, and available to be ooh'ed and aah'ed at (but not eaten) throughout the fair.
- There's a Get Animated! exhibit on animation and cartoons. For my fellow cartoon buffs and comic geeks, there's an 8,000 square foot exhibit in the Grand Hall devoted to this art form. According the Indiana State Fair website, the exhibit will include ". . . well-known stories and characters from Walt Disney, DreamWorks and Sony Animation. A large-scale custom 3-D Zoetrope – a device that produces the illusion of motion from a rapid succession of static pictures – is the centerpiece of the exhibit."
- We're going to need to work out. According to the Indiana State Fair website, by the time this little shindig is over, we will have consumed approximately 14,000 pounds of pork chops; 14,285 pounds of hot dogs; 56,000 rib eye steaks; 37,160 milkshakes; 20,000 dips of ice cream; 10,459 Deep Fried Snickers; 4,350 pounds of Weaver popcorn; and, 3,360 pounds of smoked sausage.
- New Kids' Midway. There's a new midway for young children — the Kiddie Land Midway (personally, I'd have called it Kidway) — on the east side of the fairgrounds. The new Kiddie Land Midway is inside Gate 6 off Fall Creek Parkway. They'll have more than a dozen different rides for the kids who are still too small to go on the regular midway.
- The Beatles had two performances in Indiana, both in 1964. One was at the Pepsi Coliseum, and the other was in the Marsh Grandstand. You may not be able to see music in the Coliseum this year, you will get to tour it during construction. If you listen closely, you may hear the ghosts of the fans screaming as the Beatles play "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." Or that could be a circular saw.
- There IS healthy food. Even though we have images of deep-fried loveliness at the fair, there is healthy food available. Visit the previous link for the entire menu, but some of the offerings include Indiana Pork Producers (Boneless chop is less than 350 calories with the bun); Indiana Beef Council (Hoosier Ribeye Steak Sandwich - the grilled 4 oz. ribeye is 180 calories, the hamburger bun is 110); Dr. Vegetable (Fruit slushy without sugar = less than 350 calories, fresh); and, Fresh Market Café (Popcorn 12 oz box = 50 calories (gluten free), Italian ice = 200 calories (gluten free))
- The Pepsi Coliseum is undergoing some major renovations. They're all happening this year, but are expected to be finished by next year. You can still see the building as it's being renovated. It's undergoing a $63 million facelift, which will return the exterior to its original look from 1939, and increase seating inside up to 8,200 people. There are tours from 10 am – 6 pm ever day the fair is open. The Pepsi Coliseum is expected to open on the first day of the fair next year, August 1, 2014.
- There's a new mobile app. You can download it for the Android and the iPhone.
- The Indiana State Fair is the 6th oldest State Fair in the country. We started ours in 1852, behind New York, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and possibly Kentucky. (Believe it or not, there's some debate about the "first state fair." New York held the first recognized state fair, although there are agricultural fairs dating back to 1809 and 1816. Kentucky started theirs in 1816, and claim it as one of the first. As a good Hoosier, I doubt the veracity of their claims.)
Photo credit: Indiana State Fair (Flickr)