State Fair officials decide against outdoor temporary stages again this year


By Amanda Creech

Even with specific processes in place outlined by lawmakers, once again State Fair officials have decided against using outdoor temporary stages for concerts and performances.

In 2012, the General Assembly crafted legislation setting guidelines and requirements for temporary outdoor stage structures. The goal was to ensure safety for staff, attendees, performers and crews.

The legislation came just after the devastating stage collapse in 2011 during a Sugarland concert at the State Fair. Seven people were killed and nearly 100 were injured. Investigative reports by Thornton Thomasetti, a structural engineering firm, and Witt Associates, an emergency management consulting firm, discovered that failed safety standards and an insufficient emergency plan was at least partly to blame for the collapse.

This week several storm-related tragedies have left a mark across the Midwest. During Sunday’s Wood Dale Prairie Fest in Wood Dale, Illinois, strong winds caused a tent to fall. One person was killed and more than a dozen were injured. In New Hampshire on Monday a circus tent collapsed during a severe storm in New Hampshire and left two people dead nearly two dozen people injured.

House Enrolled Act 1069 makes temporary statutes that authorize the fire prevention and building safety commission to adopt rules to regulate outdoor event equipment used in connection with an outdoor performance as a Class 1 structure. Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, authored Senate Bill 273 to create standards for stage construction and inspection.

“One of the things we wanted to do was to make it clear that there was going to be an inspection of outdoor stages and who would conduct those and who would have jurisdiction over the matter of outdoor stages,” Lanane said.

All venues planning an event where temporary outdoor stage equipment will be used are required to notify the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the state fire marshal at least 14 days in advance.

Lanane also legislation came about because it wasn’t clear in 2011 whether there had been inspections of temporary outdoor stages.

“I certainly felt like there was a gap in the law, so that was the purpose of the entire legislation,” he said.

Lesley Gordon, media and community outreach manager for the Indiana State Fair, said this is the second year the Indiana Farmer’s Coliseum has been open and the second year it has held concerts.

“We don’t have an outdoor stage besides the free stage and that’s a permanent outdoor stage so it’s a little different,” Gordon said. “We’ve moved away from [temporary stages] and now we have our concerts in the Indiana Farmer’s Coliseum.”

Gordon said she wouldn’t speculate on the future of having temporary outdoor stages at the state fair in the future.

Lanane said he is content with the legislation passed in 2012 and that remembering what happened four years ago is important.

“Certainly this time of year is something to think about because we do have stages that get put up this time of year,” Lanane said. “We just want to make sure that we do as much as we can to prevent the type of tragedy that happened at the state fair years ago.”

Amanda Creech is a reporter for, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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