It’s “comin’ back around” again. That’s right, the Indiana State Fair is coming to town Aug. 6-17. This year, the fair will have as much to offer as it ever has, whether you’re looking to see a celebrity cross-cutting saw contest, receive a free health screening at the Clarian Healthy Lifestyles Pavilion or just enjoy a sweet, buttery elephant ear as you stroll along the Midway.
Trees are a major theme of this year’s festivities. The “Year of Trees” will offer several tree-related opportunities for entertainment and education, including the Trail of Trees, a walking tour of 25 varieties of Indiana trees located throughout the fairgrounds, and the Project Learning Tree Artwork Exhibit, among other activities, all intended to help participants learn more about Indiana’s $17 billion hardwood industry. The unveiling of a new covered bridge on the west side of the fairgrounds will capture the spirit of these events.
A sure crowd-pleaser this year will be the 40-foot model of the human colon. Called the “Colossal Colon,” the exhibit is designed to educate spectators about colorectal cancer; and it’s interactive, in that visitors can crawl through this facsimile colon. Whether or not they will be digested in the process is unknown at press time.
Another permanent attraction, the urban silos created by Indianapolis artist Jeff Martin will also be showcased. He designed them for the Arts Council of Indianapolis’ “Great Ideas Competition” in an effort to bring rural flavor to the most metropolitan part of the state. Everyone is encouraged to stop by the 20- and 28-foot silos located along the Monon Trail near the fairgrounds, lay on one of the benches underneath and stare up at the sky.
Events special to this year’s fair include an exhibition about Bengal tigers featuring the Marcan Tigers of India, which aims to educate the public about this endangered species. “Indiana’s Got Game” features information about Indiana high school sports, including basketball, football, volleyball and hockey, among others. Other parts of this exhibit will showcase high school mascots and provide the opportunity to purchase athletics-themed merchandise, and may include appearances from Indiana sports heroes.
It’s hard to discuss the fair without mentioning this year’s much-hyped lineup of musical acts. The variety ensures that there’s something for everyone, whether you’d like to jam with Daughtry, reminisce with the Backstreet Boys or ogle at a newly-countrified Jessica Simpson. See our Music section for ISF-related stories.
An especially tasty and enjoyable part of the fair is, of course, the food. Often one of the premier attractions of the fair for many, a variety of vendors are drawn to the 12-day event. By all means, wash down your Hoosier ribeye sandwich with a lemon shake-up and some deep-fried Pepsi, but while you’re there be sure to check out the finalists in this year’s Indiana State Fair Signature Food Contest. This year’s honored delicacies include the Deep-Fried Maple Latte, the Hickory Smoked Beef Kabob and, the winner of the contest, the ambitiously concocted (and titled!) Deep-Fried Bananas Foster Cheesecake “on a stick.” The best part? You can enjoy all the food without feeling guilty. Last year, the Indiana State Fair became the first state fair in the United States to wipe out trans fats. See next week’s Food section for a review of State Fair food.
Special events and activities
This year you can take advantage of special deals on everything from discounted food to free parking at the fairgrounds’ infield. Buy your tickets in advance to get $1 off admission and take the free State Fair Park & Ride Shuttle from Glendale Mall to save on gas if you live north of Indianapolis. Ride your bike to the fair between 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and receive $1 off admission when you use the secure bike racks on the Monon Trail near 38th Street. See a free concert by High School Musical star Corbin Bleu Aug. 11 at 7 p.m. when you print a voucher from VOICE.tv or IndianaStateFair.com. If you plan on dropping by the fair on Wednesday, Aug. 13, you can get $5 admission after 5 p.m. Or save $2 on admission Sunday, Aug. 17 when you bring a Pepsi brand can with you. Don’t forget bracelet nights! On eight days, you can purchase a $25 bracelet that allows you unlimited access to the rides on the Midway.
One noticeable change to the State Fair are the new designated smoking areas. These areas, which will protect users from inclement weather, offer a comfortable fair experience for smokers and non-smokers alike.
Other special events will take place throughout the duration of the fair. Monday, Aug. 11, take the whole family to Kids Day, where your offspring can commemorate Garfield the Cat’s 30th birthday and participate in bubblegum blowing and “Mom-calling” contests. Golden Hoosiers Day will take place Thursday, Aug. 14 and will feature a presentation about physical fitness by the host of PBS’ Body Electric, Margaret Mitchell. Senior citizens can also enjoy free rides on the tractor shuttle all day. Later, the fair will celebrate the United States military with “Honoring Our Armed Forces & Veterans Day” on Sunday, Aug. 17. Military personnel and veterans will receive free admission with their military ID and can enjoy the National City Daily Parade at 6:30 p.m., see the Indiana Patriot Guard Riders and view the No. 8 Army NASCAR show car. Even civilians can experience a taste of military life with the Virtual Army Experience, an Army training simulation, and the National Guard’s 2008 Rock Star Hero Tour, which includes a relief mission simulator and various video games.
Whether you go for the food, the rides, the music or the special events, a trip to the Indiana State Fair will remind you once again that there is more than corn in Indiana: There are trees, too.