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157th Indiana State Fair, Aug. 2-18

Midway at the Indiana State Fair

Midway at the Indiana State Fair. AroundIndy.com staff photo, (c) 2011, all rights reserved.

By Bob Burchfield, Editor
AroundIndy.com, LLC

DISCLOSURE NOTICE: The Indiana State Fair provided AroundIndy.com, LLC with media passes in 2011 and 2012.

My earliest memories go back to the 1950’s when I was a little boy and we lived in Anderson, Indiana. It was a simpler time: neighborhood kids still played outside back then, the milkman brought the milk to your doorstep, that little fuzzy black-and-white television of ours was a relatively new phenomenon, gasoline was something like 29 cents a gallon, and my older brother was a trombone player in the Anderson High School marching band that won three consecutive state championships at the Indiana State Fair. August meant one thing at our house: the Indiana State Fair.

State Fair Shuttle

State Fair Shuttle

So for as long as I can remember, I’ve Loved the Indiana State Fair (with a capital L). I eagerly anticipated, as a little boy, parking in the infield at the fairgrounds and walking through that big tunnel beneath the track. And when we emerged from the tunnel, directly in front of the Coliseum, we were immediately greeted with a cacophony of sound and the colorful and visually appealing sights of State Fair Main Street. You may think I’m nuts, but I can’t wait to get to the State Fairgrounds each year just to take a ride on the Shuttle Train. That’s stupid, ain’t it? But it’s a tradition that goes back in our family some 60 years. The first thing we do when we get to the fair each year is to go for a ride on the Shuttle Train, once around the fairgrounds, just to take in all the sights and sounds and smells. It’s a feast for the senses.

State Fair Milk Shake

State Fair Milk Shake

Tradition also dictates that the Burchfields make certain stops each year: a visit to the Home & Family Arts Building is mandatory. That’s the first place my mother took us each year when we were youngsters, because she loved to look at the award-winning quilts on display. So we honor the tradition. Likewise, a stop at the Dairy Bar for one of those thick and creamy State Fair Milk Shakes is a must. My dad was always eager to get to the DNR Building to see the variety of live fish on display. And my younger sister, being the animal lover that she is, always pestered the parents to hurry up and get to the sheep, horse and swine barns.

One of the most vivid memories I have is standing in a huge throng of people on the track at State Fair Band Day in 1960 as they counted down the rankings at the conclusion of the competition. I was 9 years old. Anderson High School had already won three in a row in 1957-1959. A fourth consecutive win on this occasion would be historic. They counted ’em down: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3… And then they got to #2. There was a long dramatic pause. And then the announcer spoke these three letters of the alphabet: “A-N-D,” and the capacity crowd erupted in a deafening roar. Ben Davis had finally defeated Anderson for the title, breaking the Indians’ three-year winning streak. An arch rivalry in marching bands? You betcha.

Indiana State Fairgrounds

Indiana State Fairgrounds

Those were the days. But you know  what? These are the days, too. There’s nothing like the Indiana State Fair. With no disrespect to any other organization or event in Indiana, the Indiana State Fair is my #1 favorite event of the year, every year. Why? Tradition. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

This year’s Indiana State Fair begins today (Band Day, by the way!) and continues daily through Aug. 18, 2013. The State Fairgrounds is located at 1202 East 38th Street in Indianapolis, Indiana. For more information, visit http://indianastatefair.com/, or call 317-927-7500.

Hope to see you at the fair! I guarantee I’ll be there.

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