By Abrahm Hurt
INDIANAPOLIS — As the smell of corn dogs and caramel corn wafted through the air, the Indiana State Fair opened with its theme of “The Wonderful World of Food.”
After record low attendance in 2016 because of heat and rain, Gov. Eric Holcomb said this year was going to be a record year. Last year’s attendance was down nearly 20 percent from 2015, with just over 730,000 visitors.
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch speaks at the opening cermony of the 2017 Indiana State Fair. The Indiana State Fair fair opened Friday, Aug. 4 and runs through Aug. 20. Photo by Cameron Mattern, TheStatehouseFile.com
Fair attendance at the Indiana State Fairgrounds has yet to top 2013, when more than 978,000 people passed through the gates.
“If this is your first time, bring someone else who’s not been here too,” Holcomb said during the opening ceremony. “And if you’ve been here for 92 of the last straight years, let’s try to bring some other folks to try to beat that record too.”
Holcomb opened the 17-day fair by getting into the spirit of the event by taking one of the first trips on the brand new ride, Skyride, with First Lady Janet Holcomb at his side.
Operating approximately 35 feet above the ground over the span of 1,400 feet, Skyride is a 90-chair aerial lift that travels east and west in a continuous loop between the swine barn and the midway.
The weather seemed to be cooperating with Holcomb’s hope for a record-breaking fair. Early Friday morning, after an overnight rain, the weather cleared and the muggy temperatures fell to cooler levels.
“It’s cool,” Linda Troxell, who is a yearly attendee, said. “This is the first year we’ve ever had to wear long pants to the State Fair ever.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb and First Lady Janet Holcomb are the first to ride the new Subaru Skyride at the 2017 Indiana State Fair opening ceremony on Friday. Photo by Cameron Mattern. TheStatehouseFile.com
Troxell said her favorite part of coming to the fair is seeing the horses.
“I did have a show horse — he’s gone now — but it’s a chance to rejuvenate those feelings,” she said. “You understand their tenseness. You understand the disappointment and exhilaration of having gotten the blue.”
Mark Tarner, who owns The South Bend Chocolate Company, said he comes to the fair to work a booth but also enjoy the food.
“It’s good, bizarre, tasty, greasy, fried. It’s the food,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the garbage burger at the pork tent.”
Foods ranging from pickles and funnel cake will be featured each day at the fair. The foods will include a spotlight on Indiana farmers who produce the various items, and visitors will be able to enjoy samples, cooking demonstrations, recipes and food eating contests.
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch said that Indiana has the best state fair in the country.
“I love this year’s theme: The Wonderful World of Food,” she said. “You know we grow it, we sell it and we eat it. And we’re going to eat it.”
In the coming days, visitors will be able to see racing pigs, the world championship ice cream eating contest, exotic animals and dogs that dive into water.
The fair runs through Aug. 20. Gate hours for the fair are Sunday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Vendors are open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. General admission tickets cost $12 and parking passes are $5.
Details about the fair and events can be found here: Indiana State Fair schedule.
Abrahm Hurt is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.