Saturday, August 17, 2013

A closer look at the historic speed barns

Each morning since summer started I’ve been watching the horses that live in the speed barns trot around the track from my office window. Yesterday during the Standardbred harness racing, I got an even better view. For one race I got to ride in the starting car, which is the vehicle that paces the horses to start the race.

Being so close to these horses as they raced around the track was breath taking! I loved the experience, but I don’t know much about harness racing. I’ve been curious to know exactly what the speed barns are all about, so I asked the State Fairgrounds’ Executive Director, Cindy Hoye, and the Director of Strategic Projects, Kristen Wolfred.

The speed barns stable Standardbred horses year-round and stand as a location for owners to house and train their horses. The State Fairgrounds’ speed barns are actually considered the best training location in Indiana. The horses that inhabit them race at Hoosier Park, county fairs all over the state and right here at the State Fairgrounds.

Thanks to funding from the State Legislature the speed barns are getting a makeover. Approximately $500,000 has been granted to fairs in Elkhart, Fayette, Harrison, Jay, Miami, Noble and Shelby counties for construction or repair of barns and other improvements to help enhance harness racing programming throughout the state. Nearly $1.5 million has been given to the State Fair Commission to update and enhance the State Fairgrounds’ training facilities.

Speed Barn renovations include new windows in the roof, residing, reconstruction of the stalls and repainting. The renovation is still in the works, but the Allen Barn, which is the barn furthest south and nearest to gate six, is well on its way.

For the remainder of the fair, visitors can tour the Allen Barn from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

 Posted by Hilary Welter

Thursday, August 15, 2013

2013 Indiana State Fair Master has been announced

I’ve been coming to the fair for the last 22 years and there’s one thing I’ve noticed.  There are people that love the fair and then there are people the absolutely LOVE the fair. One of those people is Mary Schwartz and today she was recognized as an Indiana State Fair Master of Needle Point.

This year marks Schwartz’s 50th consecutive year of exhibiting at the Indiana State Fair! One day I hope I can make the same claim about baking or cake decorating or some other exhibit that I love, because 50 years is an incredible feat!

Schwartz stumbled upon embroidering as a compromise with her mother. It was agreed that she could continue to show sheep if she participated in an activity her mother believed to be more feminine.

Schwartz’s favorite medium is crewel embroidery. This is a technique that uses wool thread to create depths of color and shading.

“I like the feel of the wool,” Schwartz said. “I was a sheep producer at one time and so therefore I’m going to continue to support the sheep people.”

Although embroidery plays a large part in Schwartz’s roles at the Home and Family Arts Building, she is also recognized for her hard work as the coordinator of the Antiques division. Schwartz said the distinction of being named a State Fair Master is a big highlight as she joins the ranks of the many distinguished and talented people that preceded her.

“It is really an honor to be recognized for the state,” she said. “You stop and think about how many exhibitors are on this campus at one time, and to be singled out and saying, ‘we recognize you for your years of servitude to us’ – it’s a big thing.”

Monday, August 12, 2013

Local diver joins Sinbad High Dive Show at State Fair

The Sinbad High Dive Show is an award winning Brown Entertainment show based in Orlando, Fla., that has entertained audiences all over the world for years. These highly experienced divers jump, fall and twist from platforms as high as 80 feet! The first time I saw the show, I gawked in amazement at these athletes, one of whom calls Indiana home.


Greenwood’s Dakoda Johnson joined the Sinbad High Dive Show at the beginning of the 2013 Indiana State Fair. According to Johnson, he got the gig through Facebook. The show’s producer had contacted Johnson is the past, but he’s been busy studying and diving at Eastern Michigan University for the past two years. When he saw her post looking for a diver in Indiana, he jumped (literally) at the opportunity. He was brought on board only a week and a half before the fair!


Before Sinbad, his only performing experience was at his alma mater, Center Grove High School. It’s safe to say that he now has the necessary experience.
“I started diving in sixth grade, so I’ve been doing it year-round for about 10 years,” said Johnson. “That goes to show how much I love the sport.”
He hopes to continue with Brown Entertainment shows during summer breaks in the future. Fair visitors can see the show at 11 a.m., 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. every day in the Family Fun Park. On Aug. 14 and 17 fairgoers can enjoy an additional show at 7 p.m. Each show is free with State Fair admission.

Posted by Hilary Welter

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Decatur County's Morgan Tomson named Top Showman

One of the three judges summed up this year’s Supreme Showmanship in one word: "Wow!”  He was right... this competition was tough.  It was full of experienced and knowledgeable showman, which means this year’s winner, Morgan Tomson, should feel especially proud after being named the top showman at the Indiana State Fair.

“It feels awesome,” said Tomson. “I did [Supreme Showmanship] last year and didn’t win, so it feels great to come back and achieve what I couldn’t before, especially because this is my last year in 4-H.”

This competition is a true test of a showman’s skill because the contest makes each species champion and reserve champion showman show swine, beef and sheep supplied by Purdue University. This can be challenging since not all the showmen have experience showing each species. Tompson, who doesn’t show sheep, went into the competition feeling confident about all species because she has won a similar event in her home county of Decatur.

The 10-year 4-H member will attend Purdue University next year where she plans to major in Agriculture Science and Agriculture Sciences.

All 4-H’ers dream of ending their livestock careers in such a way and Tomson's hard work paid off. Other 4-H’ers who competed against her should also leave with their heads held high because it is an honor and a true testament to be involved in Supreme Showmanship.

Supreme Showmen Competitors:
     Joel Flanders –  Hamilton County
     Clay Kincaid – Henry County
     Adrianne Trennepohl – Henry County
     Morgan Tomson – Decatur County
     Jackson Johnson – Huntington County
     Kyle Garringer – Jay County

     Swine – Joe Grinstead
     Sheep – Taylor Plank
     Beef – Hudson Badskey

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Take pride in Hoosier history at the Indiana State Fair

After growing up in Elkhart, Ind. and attending college in Indianapolis, I’m proud to call Indiana my home. Although I’ve lived in this state for my entire life, I’m embarrassed to say that sometimes I forget about its rich history.
That’s why this morning I took advantage of Hoosier Heritage Day at the fair. I came across a booth that is all about the “Hoosier History Hunt.” This awesome project focuses on the restoration of about 500 “Historical Markers” throughout the state. Today at the fair, visitors have the opportunity to help repaint “The Old Northside” Marker from 12th and Delaware streets.

It was fun contributing to a cause that keeps Hoosier history alive all over the state! After today I plan on getting more involved with the project, and you can too. Here’s how:
  1. Visit the IHB website, and click “Historical Markers” from the sidebar and choose “Find a Marker.”
  2. Take a road trip to a marker near you and experience your history!
  3. Take a photo of both sides of the marker and email them to or post directly to Flickr at This helps track the condition of the markers and determine which ones need repairs. Many have been in the same location for decades!
You can also volunteer with school groups, scouts, clubs, etc. to help paint or repair! For more information on the Hoosier History Hunt, come out to the State Fair today and explore the Hoosier Heritage booths on State Fair Blvd.

Or you can look online:

Posted by: Hilary Welter

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Meet Rexie the dinosaur at the Indiana State Fair

Don't be too alarmed when you see a baby T-Rex roaming the Indiana State Fair...just hop in and grab a picture with the life-size creature, that's what she's meant for.  When you see the 8- foot-tall dinosaur, stop and introduce yourself.  Her name is Rexie! She's fierce but also friendly and loves meeting all the fairgoers.

You can check out Rexie for yourself as she roams around the east of the fairgrounds.  You'll be entranced with its lifelike movements and engaging interactions with fairgoers.  Get here soon, though... Rexie will only be here through Sunday, Aug. 11.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tagliani bikes fair as beaver

You honestly never know what you are going to see at the Great Indiana State Fair, and today was no exception. Alex Tagliani, a popular IndyCar driver, had to ride around the fair on a tricycle in a beaver costume, representative of his native Canada, while stopping to have some State Fair fun along the way.
BUT WHY? Well, the embarrassing stunt was the payoff of a bet to friend, fellow driver and 2008 Indianapolis 500 champion Scott Dixon who raised $1,130 more than Tagliani during their Power of 2 Challenge.
The Power of 2 is a fundraising initiative that uses celebrity power for social causes.  In this case, Dixon raised $7,036 for two groups that focus on cancer stricken young people, CanTeen and Teens Living with Cancer, during a two-week campaign that ended July 18.  Tagliani raised slightly less, $5,906, for his chosen charity, Anaphyaxis Canada, an organization that helps people with life threatening allergies.

Tagliani began his journey at 11 a.m. on Main Street in front of the Communications Building and proceeded around the fairgrounds and performed the following tasks:
  • Posed for photo with the World’s Largest Male Hog at the Swine Barn
  • Chugged a delicious strawberry milkshake at the Dairy Bar
  • Failed ringing the bell at the “Strong Man”  game at the midway
  • Posed for photo with the World’s Largest Popcorn Ball at the Agriculture/Horticulture Building 
  • Milked a dairy cow in the Livestock Nursery in the Family Fun Park
Lastly, he finally won back his dignity by beating Dixon and others on the fair’s Mini-Indy Speedway, a quarter-mile banked oval track in the fairgrounds’ northeast corner.

For more information on this challenge or the Power of 2 initiative, please visit