What Will Indiana State Fair Be Like Next Year?

Hoosier Perspectives

That's the real question farm families want to ask.

Published on: August 5, 2013

Everyone knows the 2013 Indiana State Fair is centered on life without the Coliseum. It's like the Colts playing football in the parking lot because Lucas Oil Stadium is being renovated. Well, maybe it's not that drastic, but having horse hitch shows in a new arena too small for anyone to be in to watch the shows, and holding the big draw livestock events in cramped quarters isn't exactly the way you would want a state fair to go.

People who are coping assume this is a one-year interruption in the routine. They seem willing to sacrifice, make the best out of the fair they can, to get to the other side, a fair with an improved Coliseum and more possibilities. After all, it is a fair – it's not like your house will be torn up for weeks or your business shut down.

Those not coping so well are the ones who are hearing rumors that once this year is over and the Coliseum is refurbished, the 2014 fair won't resemble the 2012 fair before renovation started. Those rumors say some livestock shows may not be held in the Coliseum as often as in the past, particularly the draft horse shows and large horse-hitch events.

Rumors are rumors – but some are coming from well-placed sources. Rumors insist there are those connected to the fair that would rather see the Coliseum used for concerts for half or more of the fair.

You pay to get into big name concerts. Families usually can't afford those tickets. They've come to the state fair and paid admission, knowing they could watch events like the 4-H grand drive or the six-horse hitch shows for free. It was an enticement to get them to come on the weekend, and spend their hard-earned money on concessions at the same time. Take away the horses and free farm-related entertainment, and some of those people will stay home.

What's really at stake is which direction is the Indiana State Fair going to go, and who is going to control it? Is it going to abandon its agricultural roots, even if paid officials say otherwise, and opt for more concerts that appeal to an urban audience? Or is it going to remain one of the strongest agricultural state fairs left in America, and do all it can to encourage livestock shows?

The battle is on. Too many rumors have bubbled to the surface for there not to be something in the wind. If you care about the state fair and like it the way it was, now is the time to let people know. Let your Extension educators know, find out who your fair board members are and let them know. Let State Fair Commission people know, too. And last but not least, let people like Cindy Hoye who work with the fair year-round know your feelings.

What happens when the Coliseum reopens in 2014 could set the stage for what kind of state fair your kids will grow up with in the future. Or maybe they will decide to stay home because there's nothing going on that appeals to country kids anymore. Time will tell.