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Controversy Surrounding Future of Indiana State Fair Board Far From Over

Controversy Surrounding Future of Indiana State Fair Board Far From Over
Word is that State Fair Commission and staff continue to push for changes.

There are things more important to you than the Indiana State Fair. And there's such a thing as beating a horse to death by continually ranting on the same thing. But in my humble opinion this situation is worthy of an exception.

Not everyone found their way into the new Coliseum easily this year, following renovations.

We've talked about what went on at the Indiana State Fair last month on the Web and in print. We'll run another editorial expressing our support for the state fair and the Indiana State Fair Board in Indiana Prairie Farmer this month. In the meantime a situation which was reportedly on its way to resolution hasn't been resolved. Since it could determine whether or not Indiana maintains an active Indiana State Fair Board with the power to operate the fair for 4-Hers and others as well, we believe you have the right to know.

Related: Indiana State Fair Commission Chairman: State Fair Board Will Continue

Rumors circulated before and during the fair that while the Indiana State fair Board would not be discontinued, powers of the fair board directors would be greatly reduced. Andre Lacy, chairman of the Indiana State Fair Commission, adamantly denies that the state fair board will be phased out.

Yet rumors have turned into reports from anonymous sources. It's not the kind of verification that deserves spelling out reported details of an agreement that the Indiana State Fair Board is being urged, to put it mildly, to accept. But it's worth letting you know that the State Fair board as you know it is in jeopardy if people don't step forward and make their feelings known. It's to the point where you may want to ask your legislator about it, and let him know how you feel. If you're on a policy committee of a farm group, you may also want to let policy makers know your opinion.

Without outside support, it's unclear whether the Board can fend off a push to make what have always been working state fair directors simply behind-the-scenes advisers and good will ambassadors.

Why is that important? The Indiana State Fair is one of the few true agricultural state fairs left in the country. The Indiana Soybean Alliance just invested $3 million two years ago for a futuristic display, the Glass Barn, which instructs fair-goers about modern farming, lets them meet farmers, and is used year round to educate all ages of Indiana students from all over the state.

Related: Sneak Behind the Scenes at the 2014 Indiana State Fair

Some $63 million was invested in renovating the Coliseum and adding a youth arena for 4-H horse shows and hockey. The commitment has been made to stay at the current site, and to promote agriculture.

Nothing speaks to tradition and agriculture as clearly as the Indiana State fair Board. Long before the State Fair Commission was created to oversee the grounds and finances when the fair was not operating, the Indiana State Fair Board maintained the tradition, and fought hard to make shows as educational as possible. There has been trouble with parents seeking glory and drugging animals, in the past, now and likely into the future. It's a story for another day. But the truth is that generations of Hoosiers have experienced growing up just a bit by exhibiting at the Indiana State Fair, or visiting it and passing along the enthusiasm to their kids and grandkids.

The Indiana State Fair Board has been part of that tradition, and has made sure the fair functioned except for the World War II years since 1853. The Indiana State Fair Board is part of the tradition – part of Hoosier agricultural heritage.

Why after a century and a half would we want to change a system that, while not perfect, has stood the test of time and served Hoosiers well?

If someone is willing to come forward and answer that question with a valid explanation, it might be time for a debate. Until that happens, which hasn't happened in public yet, it's time to put the rumors and internal bickering, if in fact there is any, to bed. It's time to get on planning the next great Indiana State Fair for 2015!

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