So for now, state fair organizers are relying on a mix of fair traditions and new features to lure in the crowds.
One tradition that’s returned: All the music concerts are back at the fairgrounds and they’re free, with the price of admission. Last year, fair officials held their paid concerts at the Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis. They’d been moved off the fairgrounds after the tragedy that marked the 2011 fair: The collapse of stage rigging before an outdoor concert at the fairgrounds, which killed seven people.
But attendance at those off-site concerts was low, and that cut deep into the fair’s profits.
“We realized people want to be here at the fair,” Klotz.“They don’t want to leave the fairgrounds, even for a big concert.”
Another change this year: The fairground’s flagship indoor venue, the Pepsi Coliseum, is still undergoing a $63 million renovation so won’t be in use, though will be open for visitors to take a peek at the work underway. The livestock shows and other events usually held in the coliseum have been moved to other venues on the fairgrounds.
This year’s theme, as in the past, is focused on an Indiana agricultural product. It’s the “Year of Popcorn” which visitors will notice right away in the many popcorn-themed food booth and exhibits, including a popcorn maze, free popcorn in the Farm Bureau Building, and what fair officials are calling the “World’s Largest Popcorn Ball.” It was still in the making last week, but had already grown to more than 5,200 pounds in weight.
Visitors to the Indiana State Fair will see a return of the traditional fair offerings, including livestock shows, free stage entertainment, 4-H exhibits, food booths a-plenty, and a midway of carnival rides and games. Here are just a few of the new offerings this year: