August 16, 2011

State Fair Always a True Piece of Indiana

This piece appeared as the Good Morning-Tri State Column in the Evansville Courier this morning.

Good Morning
Fair always has been a true piece of Indiana

Thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and families of the accident Saturday at the Indiana State Fair. What a freakish and horrible tragedy that gives us pause.

I could not help but think about my aunt’s sophomore year at Purdue (possibly 1948) when riser seats in the basketball gym collapsed and several students died. My aunt was a resident adviser in her dorm and had to make sure all her charges were safely in their room and talk with parents who called from all over the country.

As the stage collapse Sunday is investigated and people heal, I
hope the State Fair will survive, because it is a true piece of Indiana.

My first trip to the Indiana State Fair was in 1967 with the Go-Getters 4-H Club. We bounced up Indiana 37 to Indianapolis in a yellow school bus, singing camp songs in the early August morning.

In the days before Disney World, the Indiana State Fair was an anticipated big event among Indiana children.

For the first time I experienced the World’s Biggest Boar in the hog barn; saw hardened, fancy wedding cakes and woven breads
in the Women’s Pavilion (sans air conditioning); and rode the trolley from one side of the fairgrounds to the other.

Over the years, we would go back for the carnival, concerts at the Coliseum (Mack Davis, the Beach Boys) or to sample the Lemon Shake-ups or pork chops at the Pork Producers Tent.

There was always a stop at the replica Hook’s Drug Store with its antique apothecary mortar and pestle and colorful glass tubes and bottles.

While I never displayed more than my prize-winning county fair gladiolus at the fair, my
brother and his 4-H pals showed livestock.

Children as young as 10 slept in the barns for a week, as was the tradition 30 or 40 years ago.

My father and brother went to the fair earlier this week, and I’m hopeful they were thinking of me at some point during the day, perhaps when they passed the fair taffy stand. Nothing says fair like the sticky, gooey pieces of sweet taffy wrapped in wax paper.

I think the 1-pound box should last all winter.

Amy Abbott, Special to the Courier & Press