Did the 17–day run of the Indiana State Fair, up from 12 days in the past, bring 'more days, more fun,' as the promotions insisted? The jury seems to still be out on that. And it may depend upon how you measure the success or failure of the new, longer version of the fair.
One thing is for certain. Indiana pulled of another successful fair, at least on the surface, when other state fairs are languishing. One rumor says Michigan will no longer host a state fair, beginning next year. Another story circulating is that Ohio, who once had an extended schedule similar to Indiana's this year, will be down to seven days next year.
While a few 4-H exhibitors grumbled that the early start this year was just an attempt to capture more dollars from then, since exhibitors who showed pre-fair before now had to pay admittance, and while the big crowds didn't seem to hit until the second weekend, this fair had style and produced memories.
Here's just a few we saw from the times we visited the fair, either on duty or for pleasure this year.
Giant cheese sculpture- The 'cheese lady' was back again, during her normal great job. She sculpted hundreds of pounds of cheese into a masterpiece. Her work took place in Our Land Pavilion, sponsored by Pioneer.
Dairy guys in the beef tent- Joe Kelsay, what were you doing serving Rib-eye sandwiches in the beef tent? Kelsay, Whiteland, a dairyman, is a member of the Indiana Professional Dairyman's Association. "We actually took a couple of shifts," he says. "We're trying to work more closely without other commodity groups. We're all in this together."
The 'In Crowd'- Indiana's major ag commodities, Indiana Farm Bureau and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture are mounting a major offensive, playing offense rather than disease against the likes of the Humane Society of the united States and others who would mislead the public about animal agriculture. Thousands of 'I'm In' buttons showed up all over the fairgrounds. "It really made people stop and ask me what it meant," says Keegan Poe, Franklin, a cattle producer. "It gave me a chance to talk to them for a few minutes about what we do, and that was the whole purpose."
Big Boar came a long way- The 'World's Largest Boar' is at least the country's largest boar. This year's winner, on display in the swine barn during the entire fair, weighed in at over 1,200 pounds. The interesting thing was that it came all the way from Massachusetts to capture top honors here.
Goats invade dairy barn- There was lots of activity in the hog barn during the middle weekend, but there weren't any hogs there. Instead, goats filled up the pens, and 4-H'ers and their families showed goats. It was possible because of the revamped schedule, and because the swine officials showed gilts and barrows all on the first weekend after all. Original plans when the longer fair was announced suggested that barrows be shown one weekend, then gilts the next. That didn't happen, and it seemed to please swine exhibitors who could show both gilts and barrows at one time, just as in the past.