Renovations on the horizon after 5 percent slip in state fair attendance

By Erica Irish
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS—While a record number of people in a single day attended this year’s Indiana State Fair, officials reported fewer total attendees than in years past.

A press release circulated by fair officials reported that this summer’s 17-day, circus-themed festival — “Step Right Up! to the Greatest 17 Days of Summer” — welcomed 860,131 total attendees.

Of those guests, 80,000 visited the featured big top circus on the north end of the fairgrounds. The tent offered shows three times per day and seated 1,600 people.

However, the 2018 total is almost a 5 percent decrease from the 906,732 guests who attended in 2017, and even lower than the fair’s record 978,000 total set in 2013.

 

The most attended day was on Aug. 14, during the second consecutive $2 Tuesday promotion, during which general admission, parking and some food options were available for $2. More than 91,000 people took advantage of the discounted rates, setting a record total of attendees in a single day at the fair.

The midway at the Indiana State Fair. Photo by Erica Irish, TheStatehouseFile.com

Another major central Indiana event, the four-day tabletop gaming convention Gen Con, overlapped with the opening days of the state fair. The event broke its record for overall attendance for the second year with 223,326 visits, surpassing its 50th anniversary celebration in 2017 by 9 percent.

In the future, fair officials said they plan to touch up key areas of the fairgrounds to provide a more comfortable experience to guests.

Last week, the state fair’s Vice President of Administration Ray Allison spoke to the state budget committee at a meeting in Evansville to outline why the fair deserves planned funding to provide for these changes.

“Your state fair is recognized throughout the industry as being one of the best in the country, especially for [agriculture] education,” Allison told the committee.

The current budget allocates $4 million to the state fair for renovations, of which the fair commission has received half. If approved, they will receive the remaining $2 million in 2019.

“This $2 million will be used for critically needed deferred repair and replacement projects,” Allison said, referring to a line-up that includes updating HVAC systems in four buildings, roof replacements on three buildings, and updates in various areas of the grounds needed to comply with accommodations outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), among other plans.

The Indiana State Fair will be open for the 2019 season next Aug. 2-18.

Erica Irish is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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