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1990s Indiana Prairie Farmer article shows how State Fair was supposed to operate

1990s Indiana Prairie Farmer article shows how State Fair was supposed to operate
Indiana Prairie Farmer article revealed hope for future of fair.

Here it is Throwback Thursday already. Last week we visited an article Carl Eiche, then senior editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, now retired, wrote about changes to the Indiana State Fair. They were implemented by the Indiana General Assembly and Governor Bayh. The 1990 state fair was the transition year between how the fair had operated and how it was to operate.

Related: Indiana State Fair heifer, steer judges stir crowd with comments

Eiche reported that until 1990, the Indiana State Fair Board was in charge of the grounds, finances and the fair itself. State law created the Indiana State Fair Commission, charged with maintaining the grounds and managing finances.

State Fair today: Agriculture is still very much a part of the Indiana State Fair. Several members of the current state fair board hope it stays that way.

The law also changed the name of the Board to the Indiana State Fair Committee. The make-up was changed to seven elected and seven appointed positions by the governor, instead of 11 elected and five appointed. Ex-officio members were left the same.

On the surface, at least, the 2015 Indiana State Fair seems to be operating smoothly, with Indiana State Fair Board directors working with hired superintendents, and still carrying out some duties, including making introductions at the 4-H Grand Drive on Monday, Aug. 10. Behind the scene there still seems to be differences of opinion.

David Miers of Greensburg, named a Master Farmer in 2007, was the first chairman of the Indiana State Fair Commission. Here are more excerpts from the 1990 article by Carl Eiche.

Eiche began the article quoting Miers. "We honestly feel that this could be one of the best state fairs ever because people operating their departments can devote all their time and energies to those functions," Miers said.

"They don't have to be concerned with finances or management of the grounds."

An old axiom says "follow the money." Part of the impetus for change before the 1990 fair was a lack of funds for the fair. Then editor Paul Queck commented in his editorial that month that political infighting had contributed to the issue.

Related: Indiana State Fair: 1990 vs. 2015

Eiche wrote: "In effect, state legislators and the governor agreed to give the fair $1.4 million for 'revitalization.' But they also chose to change the balance of power because they felt that the fair's board should be accountable to the governor.  

No less than Miers himself said the two actions weren't connected, Eiche wrote.

Who was on that first Indiana State Fair Commission? According to Eiche, besides Miers as chairman, members were Judy Burton, Fulton County; Charles Eckert, Marion County; Harry Pearson, then president of Indiana Farm Bureau, Blackford County; and Donald Tanselle, Hendricks County. Lt. Governor Frank O'Bannon served as a voting member as well. The chairman of the newly formed state fair committee (formerly the board) served as a non-voting member. The first representative was Howard Unger, Sullivan County.

One member of the new state fair committee, formerly the state fair board, not identified in the story, made these comments.

"It could have been much worse. We know three of the commission members because they either sat on the board or were well known in Indiana agriculture.

"We've been encouraged to run our departments to the best of our abilities, and that's what we intend to do."

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