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Watch the Indiana State Fair Grow- Literally!

Officials announce longer fair for '09.

You can grow by adding space if you're a fair, such as the Indiana State Fair. Or you can grow by making the event longer. Finally, you can grow by packing more features into the space that you already have. Apparently the Indiana State Fair is ready to grow, not by adding more space, but by extending the length of the fair, and perhaps by intensifying the features and activities that go on during the fair.

Officials announced just days ago that the Indiana State Fair Commission approved to add days to the fair beginning in '09. That's just two fairs removed from now. And they're not just tacking a day on at the end or beginning. Instead, it's an addition of five days, nearly a full week, making it then a 17-day run instead of 12. The fair will extend across three weekends.

Officials pat themselves on the back for innovative thinking. Time will tell. That's a long time to maintain interest and attract visitors, utilizing an urban media that doesn't cover rural events, even the Indiana State Fair, as thoroughly as it once did. What the extension does, however, is legitimize many activities going on before the fair officially opens under the current schedule.

For example, 4-H hog showmanship begins on Monday in '07, before the fair opens on Wednesday. Tuesday is a full day of showing activity, not just for swine, but for other species as well. Actual judging was moved onto pre-fair days years ago to facilitate getting everything done in the specified amount of time, given restrictions on space and other factors.

Officials also claim it should spread out traffic, making for less congestion on weekends, and provide more opportunities to rebound and recapture attendance if bad weather days knock out a day or two here and there. The new format will also offer an earlier weekend for families whose children return to school in mid-August. And with the NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway now moved earlier into July, the opening weekend of the Indiana State Fair will provide a quality event for families in the Indianapolis area to do early in August.

There are indications the Indiana State Fair also intends to grow by expanding existing features within the grounds, particularly in Pioneer Village. While details are sketchy, smart money says that fair officials will find a way to move The Barn from the south side of 38th street to the north side of the track inside the fairgrounds by next year. The Barn was home to the Center for Agricultural Science and Heritage. Rumors say that organization will go away. The physical structure housing the organization, The Barn itself, is a restored dairy barn from earlier days.

One theory holds that the building will become the foundation of a much-expanded ag education effort in the Pioneer Village area. There is even talk that the complex will open for visitors, primarily school-age children, in and out of classroom settings, nearly year round. However, few details have been nailed down yet and announced to the public.

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