So for now, state fair organizers are relying on a mix of fair traditions and new features to lure in the crowds.
One tradition that’s returned: All the music concerts are back at the fairgrounds and they’re free, with the price of admission. Last year, fair officials held their paid concerts at the Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis. They’d been moved off the fairgrounds after the tragedy that marked the 2011 fair: The collapse of stage rigging before an outdoor concert at the fairgrounds, which killed seven people.
But attendance at those off-site concerts was low, and that cut deep into the fair’s profits. “We realized people want to be here at the fair,” Klotz. “They don’t want to leave the fairgrounds, even for a big concert.”
Another change this year: The fairground’s flagship indoor venue, the Pepsi Coliseum, is still undergoing a $63 million renovation so won’t be in use, though will be open for visitors to take a peek at the work underway. The livestock shows and other events usually held in the coliseum have been moved to other venues on the fairgrounds.
This year’s theme, as in the past, is focused on an Indiana agricultural product. It’s the “Year of Popcorn” which visitors will notice right away in the many popcorn-themed food booth and exhibits, including a popcorn maze, free popcorn in the Farm Bureau Building, and what fair officials are calling the “World’s Largest Popcorn Ball.” It was still in the making last week, but had already grown to more than 5,200 pounds in weight.
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at email@example.com
New at the fair: Visitors to the Indiana State Fair will see a return of the traditional fair offerings, including livestock shows, free stage entertainment, 4-H exhibits, food booths a-plenty, and a midway of carnival rides and games. Here are just a few of the new offerings this year: • The Glass Barn: A Clear Look at the Farming Experience - The Indiana Soybean Alliance has designed and built a 4,500 square foot glass-paneled barn on the north side of the fairgrounds. It's filled with interactive games and activities designed to educate visitors on how farming works and how food is produced. • Get Animated - Get Animated is an 8,000 square foot exhibit inside the Grand Hall on Main Street. It's an interactive experience that takes visitors through the history of animation. • Kiddie Land Midway - The fair's traditional midway, with rides and games, is still there. But this year, there is also a new midway just for young children. It's located away from the larger midway, on the fairgrounds' northeast side (off Gate 6.) • Rosstyn Ice Shows - Outdoor ice shows will be held on a 40-by-40 skating rink in Dow AgroSciences Celebration Park on the fairgrounds' northwest side. The rink is covered by a clear-span, engineered tent with bleacher seating for up to 800 spectators. • Indiana State Fair App - Available for both iOS and Android phones, the new state fair app has several different maps for visitors to plan their trip and locate their favorite fair food booths and exhibits. It also has a new built-in sharing mechanism that allows users to post comments and photos to their Facebook and Twitter networks. Users will also receive special announcements and discount opportunities. To see a complete listing of fair offerings, including special discount prices, go to the State Fair's website, www.in.gov/statefair/fair