Thanks to fans and foes

 

The Indiana State Fair opens this

week. And in these days of intense political partisanship, economic turmoil and

social unrest, it's one of the few things Hoosiers can all agree upon. The fair

is good, clean, wholesome family fun and almost no one would disagree with

that.

Unlike most other events, each

year's fair builds upon a rich history and legacy of years past.

The fair also signals the

beginning of the end of the summer and the start of the school year

approaching. It also pays tribute to Indiana farmers at a time when almost

nobody else — not the government, certainly, nor the general public —

has the inclination to do so.

I don't have to dig too deeply

into my memory banks to find plenty of Indiana State Fair memories lurking. My

mother and grandmother used to haul my sisters and me to the fair two or three

times a summer to see the livestock events, to eat the wide variety of fried

foods and to tour the exhibitor's hall, one of the few places with air

conditioning.

There's something about the fair,

no matter what dates it's held, that brings out the hottest and most humid out

of the Indiana summer. Even when our summers have been relatively mild, the

arrival of the fair ensures temperatures in the '90s. And in this year, where

it feels like the fires of hell have been unleashed from the sun, it promises

to be even hotter.

The fair goes on regardless of

the hot weather. It's bad for the people attending, even worse for the people

working there and one can only imagine what the farm animals at the fair must

be going through.

One of my most vivid fair

memories is of watching a cow give birth in 95-degree heat with an audience

watching her. She struggled mightily to deliver the calf while kids ate ice cream

and slurped lemon shake-ups. I felt so sorry for her.

But that experience also

highlights one of the great benefits of the fair: Its unique ability to bring

farmers and city folk together. From my experience, farmers hate city dwellers.

They're afraid of the city, afraid of being robbed and afraid of traffic. While

the traffic in Indianapolis is no match for that of Chicago, say, it's still enough

to freak someone out if they're not used to it.

And modern city people have few

if any ties to the farm. A century ago, most people made their living in

agriculture. It was the only way to assure your family had enough to eat, a

profession where there were always jobs and opportunities. Politicians had to

make sure they didn't piss off the farm vote.

It's a good thing that urban

residents get to meet the farmers and livestock producers, shake their hands

and ask them questions. A century of industrialization has removed the ties

that once existed between the cities and rural communities. We're much more

removed from the food we eat than we were in the days when we raised our own

crops and slaughtered animals for survival.

Farmers may be mistrustful of city

folk, but they're usually more than happy to take time to explain what they do

if you ask them respectfully. They're proud people and are grateful for any

signs of curiosity and gratitude shown them by urban residents.

Of course, the fair is also about

cotton candy, fried foods, carnival games and rides. One of the fondest

memories I have is from the 2006 fair, when my wife and I had first met, when

we took a long, romantic ride on the Ferris wheel. I have many fair memories

but that's the one that means the most to me.

There truly is something for

everyone at the Indiana State Fair. To get the most out of it, you have to

invest some time and know where you're going. The free smartphone

app for the fair looks excellent and provides a guide to all the exhibits and

events.

The Indiana State Fair really has

no downside, except, perhaps, the toll it takes on your wallet. Finding the

best bargains and free events can relieve some of that burden. But even if you do

drop a lot of money at the fair, in the end, it seems worth it.

Now, more than ever, this

community needs something that brings us together and something that's

positive. The fair is a unifying, inspiring event that reminds us of our

agricultural past and shows us how much we have in common with the people who

help feed the world through their back-breaking work.

See you there.

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