My family went to the Indiana State Fair on Sunday. Because I was using my media credentials and parking pass to get in, we entered a different gate than we normally do. Entering a different gate gave us a different entry point into the Fair itself. And that turned out to be a happy coincidence.
Parking on the north side of the infield, we stepped into the Fair right in front of the Department of Natural Resources building. In years past, the DNR building has been one of our last stops at the Fair. We usually make a quick pass by the tanks of native fish and then head for the car.
This year, being fresh from the air conditioning and still full of energy, the DNR building held our attention for considerably longer. We took our time looking at the fish (well, except my middle child who is “creeped out” by fish). We looked at the 110 rings on the slice from a tree that fell over in a windstorm. We touched bison pelts and turtle skeletons and other things that came from our state forests.
The boys climbed atop an ATV and tried their hands at shooting air rifles.
As we left the DNR building, someone asked if the kids would like to try to catch a fish at the catch-and-release pond. You didn’t have to ask them twice. In fact, we’ve often wanted to try this at the Fair, but never found the time to do it. Both boys were successful (with a good bit of help from the pros), though Annie was left with just a worm on a hook. It was such a popular experience that Robbie even sang about it in his post-fair song.
Once the blue gills were happily swimming in the pond again (until another lucky kid with a worm came along), we spent time looking at the butterfly house.
We stopped for some free samples of Turkey Hill Ice Cream and then made our way to the 25-foot “God Bless America” statue. State Fair Director Cindy Hoye told us at the media preview that there was a surprise on that statue, but we didn’t find it, unless it was the giant Indiana State Fair luggage tag.
By this time, we’d been at the Fair for almost two hours and had not hit any of our usual haunts. Yet, we were having a terrific time discovering new things the Fair had to offer.
Lunch turned out to be a reckoning back to old favorites. BBQ pork, corn dogs, roasted corn, turkey leg, lemon shake-ups. (Spread out across five people, of course!)
But after we’d had our fill of fair food, we headed to the Bridges to Japan experience in the International Hall (formerly the Grand Hall). There we tasted and rated Japanese snacks and drinks, cozied up to several intuitive robots like iFairy and Paro, which surprisingly had me petting it and interacting as though the robotic seal were a live animal.
My youngest was fascinated with the Japanese daruma masks, made out of dried gourd and painted with bright faces. He was even more thrilled that he could make his own daruma to take home with him. (I was tickled that the experience was free!)
Other new experiences for us during our trip to the Indiana State Fair included go kart rides, the Lucas Oil Super Pull tractor pull, Hedrick’s Racing Pigs and cockroach races.
We also managed to squeeze in some old favorites — mini golfing at the FFA building, ice cream from the Dairy Bar, visiting the livestock nursery, and gawking at the worldest largest hog — a “little” fellow named Tickle Me Elmo III, who weighed in at 1,270 pounds!
After nine hours at the Fair, we were ready to go home. But we’re already making plans to go back before it closes on August 22 because there is so much more that we didn’t see and do (and eat!).
So if you’re hesitating making a trip to the Great Indiana State Fair because you’ve been there before and done all that it has to offer, take my advice. Change up your routine. Go in a different gate. Go at a different time of day. It’s likely to be a whole new experience for you.