Our intrepid reporter Nora Spitznogle hasn’t missed a day at the Indiana State Fair in nearly a decade. Here are some of her favorite sights from this year’s fair.
I get all shy and giggly around Mauri Williamson. He started Pioneer Village in 1961 under the old grandstand, and has grown it into something amazing. Mr. Williamson keeps watch over his village with a quick smile, a bit of history, and even older jokes. Pioneer Village is located on the northeast side of the Fairgrounds.
I always stop to watch any demonstration I stumble across at the State Fair. Except for the folks selling cookware – I have a no eye-contact rule in that case. Here is Dick Reel and another Pioneer Village volunteer demonstrating how to use and make a shaving bench. I learned that a shaving bench is a cross between a vice and workbench. Dick made his by making a pattern of the 100-year-old bench in Pioneer Village. He’s happy to share a copy of the plans with you. Seriously. He has them sketched out on paper and keeps them at the ready in a ziplock bag – all the better to keep out the sawdust and humidity.
The 4-H members that get championship ribbons in their counties get to bring their projects to the State Fair competition. The kids who win for sewing or electrical or woodworking can pretty much leave their project tossed behind their bedroom door in the time between their county fair and the State Fair. I always feel sorry for the members that do baking projects. Not only do they have to recreate the masterpieces, but also they need to transport them. I always imagine the panic of the poor 12-year-old from Floyds Knobs who has to ride with a cake on her lap stressing out over every railroad track and stoplight. The 4-H Buildings are on the northwest side of the Fairgrounds.
I like to venture off the beaten path around the Fairgrounds, especially around the animal barns. Just make sure you watch your step, if you know what I mean. Actually watch your step even if you don’t know what I mean. You can often find 4-H kids–and let’s be honest, their parents–washing and grooming their animals or lining up to check in or for competition. The Cattle Barn is the largest of its kind in the world, spanning over four acres. You can find the cows in the West Pavilion on the west side of the Fairgrounds.
The milkshakes from the Dairy Barn are almost guilt-free. First of all, it’s the all for charity. Cheerleaders and service groups take turns running the registers and grilling the cheese sandwiches for a portion of the sales. And this is the Year of the Dairy Cow, so it would be rude to not consume a dairy product. In honor of the theme this year I wore that cow ring every single day, including a business meeting or two. The Dairy Barn is between the Grandstand and Midway.
I used to avoid the Hook’s Drug Store Museum and Soda Fountain. It was typically too full of people to actually look at the interesting memorabilia and I hadn’t been turned on to the whole soda fountain thing. The chocolate sodas rock, and they will make you a cola to order. The history of the space is fascinating, also. At one time it was the Better Babies Building, where babies were judged during the State Fair. Yep: baby judging. I wonder where they pinned the ribbons? The museum is located on the west side of the Fairgrounds.
I’m going to brag a bit. My snickerdoodles got the first place ribbon in the open show this year! Anyone can enter the open divisions in the State Fair; unlike 4-H you don’t have to win at the county level. I still get the rush I did as a 4-H kid entering projects and the anticipation of waiting until I can see how my projects fared. I encourage you all to enter your specialty. Not only is it fun as can be, you get six tickets to the Fair for the price of your entry fee. The Home and Family Arts Building is located on the west side of the Fair next to the Midway.