Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name...

…would smell as sweet, or would it just smell? Each year, approximately 150 artists submit promotional packets for consideration to perform at the Indiana State Fair, and a good number of them are dedicated to performing someone else’s music. That’s cool…I like cover bands, and familiar tunes draw visitors to the stage. The Good smell sweet. The Bad, not so much…but hopefully, I’m smart enough to not pick those flowers.

Another sect of entertainers takes it to the next level. Not only do they cover others’ music, they limit their performance to the music of one particular group…the music of what one may surmise is their favorite band…or what they hope is someone’s favorite band. A band so popular, beloved and amazing, the audience won’t care they aren’t hearing the original, provided the impersonators are an authentic recreation in sight and sound.

Member of this faction, my friends, are the Tribute Bands.

Typically, the artists being saluted have…um…moved beyond their days of glory, though their flame still burns brightly. KISS, ABBA, Elvis, The Beatles (of course)…they’re all out there, some based here in Indiana. Recently an Alan Jackson imitator crossed my desk, which was kind of odd, since Mr. Jackson is still recording great music and not one I’d consider requiring a tribute just yet.

I’ve booked several tribute bands over the years. You like Poison? Their praises have been sung (or screamed) at the Fair. How about Jerry Lee Lewis? Audiences showed their admiration at “his” shows the past two years. Johnny Cash more your speed? I’ve hired his vocal likeness as well. And lest we forget the Elvis Impersonator Contest, which has become a staple of Indiana State Fair programming, consistently drawing huge crowds and growing each year.

I’ve often kicked around the idea of holding a Tribute Band Day on the Main Street Stage but never done it. This year, the idea has been floated around to host such an event in the Hoosier Lottery Grandstand. How fun would that be???

What do you think? Let’s say, for kicks, a Tribute Band Day is scheduled at the 2010 Indiana State Fair. Who would you like to see? Me…I’m banking on John Denver. (Yes, even John has a tributeur.)

Submitted by Bobbi Bates

Monday, January 25, 2010

The More Things Change...

Confession: Until I worked at the Indiana State Fair, I could count on one hand the number of times I had visited the ISF. It wasn’t my fault, though; I lived in Perry County, a solid three-hours away, and the Wilcher mini-van only made treks up to Indianapolis a couple times a year to stay with my grandmother. Grandma’s house was (and still is) without air conditioning, so you can see how a trip to Indy in mid-August might be too much of a sweltering task.

However, I do have my share of State Fair memories. Take a trip down that lane with me, won’t you? The first visit is represented below.

1985. That’s my brother Eric on the left and me on the right, at age 6. We’re showing off our souvenirs from the State Fair in front of Grandma’s lemon-yellow house. I specifically remember picking out the inflatable sword in hopes that Eric would think it was neat, not because I really wanted it. I’m pretty sure it didn’t work--maybe because the koala t-shirt made me decidedly less cool.

The next trip to the State Fair (that we have record of, anyway) was a cause for much celebration: Eric’s endeavors in 4-H (our club was called the Shamrock Bums—no joke) earned his Foods II entry a trip to the fair! (Eric, forgive me, but I had to do this.)

1990. Eric is 12, and stylish to boot. Apparently all the cool kids were wearing their watches on their forearms, and that forearm is gesturing to the best orange muffins in Perry County.

It wouldn’t be fair to show the above picture and not the others of that special day. No one in my family is safe from the blog. Not even my grandma.

Mom, Eric, Grandma, and me. I remember this moment. We’re sharing an elephant ear in front of the Home and Family Arts Building. Please pay special attention to how my socks match my t-shirt; I worked hard to look that good. I especially enjoy the logo on the right side of the bench—one that is still used today and is familiar to fairgoers.

Last but not least, the family portrait.
Dad decided to let us take his picture. Grandma is taking the photo. That’s her denim pocketbook (always a pocketbook, never a purse) on the right. I hate to think we made Grandma hop off the shuttle to snap the picture and then make a run for it to get back on, but I can only assume her lack of home air conditioning made it easy for her to be active in the out-of-doors when needed.

Now that I work at the Fair, I see families making memories like these every time they’re here. Except their photos are much better, thanks to digital cameras that will delete all the bad ones. So get your neon socks out and set your forearm watches: the Indiana State Fair will be here before you know it. August 6-22, 2010!
Submitted by Claire Wilcher

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Home Sweet Home Show

So, the snow is gone. That should be a good thing, right? Not in my case. The pretty white blanket happened to hide a lot of landscaping flaws, such as my lopsided front garden flowerbed. The entire left side of the bed is so sad where the mums just didn’t quite thrive and I have no shrubs to fill the space. And, on the right side, one mum did thrive, but I neglectfully left it to die a slow death come late fall. Not to mention the fall leaves that have crowded around the rest of the area, wet and slick now with mud and decay. It’s my own fault really…I never clear out the remnants of my summer and fall flowerbeds at the end of season. Frankly, by fall, I’m over gardening and ready to hibernate for the season.

Which brings me to one particular problem…I noticed after the snow melted last week and we had maybe two days of 40-degree weather, my bulbs were budding! What?! I’ve never in my life experienced budding tulips and irises in January! Heck, it didn’t even get that warm. I’m heartsick that all my beautiful bulbs painstakingly planted last year are most likely never going to realize their full potential.

So, what do I do? Well, I’m heading to the Indianapolis Home Show on the 29th for some much needed advice. Maybe I just didn’t bury the bulbs far enough into the ground? Not sure, but I aim to find out. I’m certain all those experts over at the Home Show can help me. And, you know, maybe while I’m there I can get some good landscaping ideas to fill-in that lopsided flowerbed of mine. Oh, and a referral for the exterior paint job I’ve been avoiding for 5 years. The faded paint has rendered our home’s wood trim a lovely shade of pink in contrast with our gray siding. It’s time.

Submitted by Angie Foreman

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2010: The Year of Pigs

First it was corn, then it was trees. Last year was tomatoes, and now, in 2010, the featured commodity at the Indiana State Fair is pigs. That’s right, the fair and Indiana Pork Producers are teaming up to celebrate this prominent part of Midwestern agriculture and staple of many Hoosiers’ daily breakfasts.

Of course, pork products aren’t just for breakfast. We also enjoy them at lunch in the form of a ham sandwich or a burger topped with a couple strips of bacon. And who doesn’t have a ham or pork chop dinner from time to time?

Yes, Indiana grown pigs are an important part of the American diet, and that’s why they will be featured at this year’s State Fair.

Deciding which item to spotlight is not very scientific. The fair and the State Department of Agriculture get together to discuss what commodities play a significant role in the state’s economy and which one consumers should learn more about. Since the pork industry contributes $3 billion to the Hoosier economy and employs more than 15,000 people directly, it makes sense to tell everyone that those sausage patties next to your scrambled eggs are not only great tasting, but also a key part of keeping a Hoosier farmer in business.

So the next time you bite into that BLT or salivate over that slice of pepperoni pizza, savor the flavor and the knowledge that you are contributing to one of Indiana’s best made products.

As one prominent pork industry spokesman would say… “Th… th… th…That’s all, folks.”

Submitted by Andy Klotz

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Cool Kids

As a 4th grader who yearned to be cool, one of the best places to practice and flaunt such potential coolness was Rainbow Skateland, nestled in the boonies of Perry County. I remember lacing up those sweet beige-and-orange rentals, cuffing my stonewashed jeans with the zippers at the bottoms, and rolling smoothy to the Q-Bert game next to the lockers. I would order my nachos confidently from the snack bar, arms resting on the counter thanks to the two-inch lift those eight wheels provided. Soon enough, my favorite Whitney Houston hit would play (“I Wanna Dance with Somebody”) and I felt the need to get out onto the rink. Huddled with the timid masses at the threshold between the berber carpet and the slick polished rink, I rocked back and forth like I was trying to enter a double-dutch game, gauging just the right moment for entrance into the pack already rolling around the floor. Once into the fray, I would spend the next hour navigating turns, avoiding groups of fast fifth-graders, and trying my best not to slam into a wall.

Take away the fifth-graders, the Whitney Houston, and the Q-Bert, and you’ve got the sport of Roller Derby.

Our own Angie Foreman already blogged about Indy’s own Naptown Roller Girls a few entries earlier (just scroll down), so I won’t go into particulars about rules and regulations about roller derby. I will, however, introduce you to Strawberry Jam, one of the Naptown Roller Girls. Her cool factor is way up there. Here’s what she had to say about skating for glory at the Pepsi Coliseum.

*Describe roller derby in three words.

Tough. Powerful. Addicting.

*What is your favorite moment during a bout?

Putting the jammer on the ground…over and over and over.

*Any good injury stories?

Well, personally I’ve had two surgeries due to derby. First, I broke my ankle and had a plate and six screws put in. Fourteen months later, I had my knee worked on. The “best” injury goes to Scary Poppins: she was hit directly into a wall when we first started and broke her humerus completely. The x-ray is almost like a cartoon of what an x-ray looks like.

*How does it make you feel, being a part of NRG?

It’s a sisterhood. We sweat. Bleed. Strategize. Run the league. We do it all as one amazing group of talented women…with the help of a few men. It’s an amazing feeling to look in the faces of ladies who are going to battle together.

*Tell me about your fans. They seem integral part to the whole vibe of the game.

WE LOVE THEM! I can’t say enough amazing things. They love the sport as much as we do. They learn the rules and discuss the games with us. They support us 100%...we always say we are the luckiest team in the nation because we have the best fans!

*Any little-known tidbits that those unfamiliar with derby would find interesting?

Most people don’t realize that none of us get paid to play—in fact we all pay dues to be a part of the league. The girls on the track are the same girls who put the track together on bout day, the same girls that set up the ticket sales and deliver tickets to our vendors around town. We manage the league, run the league and skate for the league.

You can read more about the NRG here in the Winter Issue of Inside the Grounds. After you’ve done that, buy a ticket to their upcoming bout on January 16th.

All the cool kids will be there—so feel free to sport some stonewashed jeans.

Submitted by Claire Wilcher

Monday, January 11, 2010

Top 10 Hidden Treasures at the Indiana State Fairgrounds

Sure, you know all about the Great Indiana State Fair, and of course, the big shows that lure you to the grounds annually – Christmas Gift and Hobby Show, Indianapolis Home Show, and even the Boat, Sport, and Travel Show to name just a few. But, a casual stroll thru this 250-acre campus might just lead you to something you didn’t know existed.

So, I have compiled my personal list of Top 10 Hidden Treasures at the Fairgrounds. Read, enjoy, and then come on out and experience them for yourself. And, while you’re at it, if you find a few of your own that aren’t listed here – come on back and share your personal Fairgrounds finds with the rest of us!! We’ll be glad you did.

  1. Puck: the Pepsi Coliseum’s unofficial mascot - a goofy, loveable, black lab retriever. Find him in the Skate Shop and bring him a doggie treat, in return he just might give you a big sloppy kiss!
  2. Barto’s Catering and Concessions: yep, we have an award-winning caterer right here on the grounds. Located in the Farm Bureau Building, Barto’s menu is pretty extensive. I can attest personally that they offer delicious food and service on a budget.
  3. Normandy Barn: maybe I’m a little biased on this one. My office was once located inside this beautifully renovated 1936-era dairy barn before it moved to its final resting place on the northside.
  4. DNR Complex: come take a stroll around the DNR grounds in the warmer months for an introduction to hundreds of native wildflowers and indigenous trees. See how many you can name…there are more than you might think!
  5. Orville Redenbacher: the Popcorn King’s signature is located on the northside of the grounds in an engraved stone tablet. What was once part of a “Walk of Fame” that included famous sigs from Garfield creator Jim Davis to John Mellencamp, you can now find the remaining concrete tablets embedded in benches along the northside of the Fairgrounds parallel to the harness racing track.
  6. The White House: resting sedately next to the Home and Family Arts Building, the White House was built for the 1936 State Fair as a modern Model Farm Home. The home is now a crash pad of sorts for certain State Fair staffers who never have the opportunity to leave the grounds during the Fair. Sorry guys.
  7. Hook’s Drug Store Museum and Soda Fountain: Did you know you don’t have to wait until the Fair to get a sneak peek inside this historically authentic drug store? To schedule a tour or special event, call 317.294.3087.
  8. Indiana State Fair Covered Bridge: ok, so it’s not technically “hidden” but it certainly is a treasure. And, by visiting off-season you can do something you can’t do during the Fair – drive through it! You’ll suddenly feel transported to Parke County – covered bridge capital of the world.
  9. Trail of Trees: Erected during the 2008 Indiana State Fair’s “Year of Trees”, this trail brings you to 25 indigenous Indiana trees located around the grounds. Pick up a brochure from the Administration Building and take your time – you’ll need it.
  10. Greenhouse: In addition to growing 10 ft. high tomato plants – in the winter no less - our Education Specialist, Mark Brammer, is also hard at work building a special aquaponics system. Once complete, the recirculating aquatic environment will demonstrate how fish, water and plants can work together to create an entirely self-sufficient mini-eco system. Does it get any “greener” than that?
Submitted by Angie Foreman

Saturday, January 9, 2010

We're Off and Running!

It’s January, and the month of August seems so far away...but it will be here before we know it.

Yes, we begin planning the next State Fair almost immediately after one ends - sometimes before! Sure, we've already booked and announced four major concerts for this year. And yeah, a good part of the grounds entertainment has been secured. But personally, the "Fair Year" really kicks-off in January at the Indiana Association of Fairs Festivals and Events annual convention.

Representatives from each county fair come together in Indianapolis to see old friends from around the state, discuss ideas and ask advice of their peers, and venture through the trade show in search of talent, awards, souvenirs and such for their events. I've booked many artists on our Main Street Stage, having met them at the INAFFE convention. You never know what you'll find!

Submitted by Bobbi Bates

Friday, January 8, 2010

Jammin' & Laughin'

Maybe you’ve heard… we’ve announced our first four Hoosier Lottery Grandstand shows for this year’s State Fair, and we are pumped!

Check ‘em out:

Rascal Flatts – Aug. 7

Keith Urban – Aug. 14

Jeff Dunham – Aug. 18

Sugarland – Aug. 20

All these shows will be dynamite… all are superb live performers! Jeff Dunham is the hottest comedy act going these days. Not familiar? He’s the ventriloquist who may be best known for his grumpy partner, “Walter,” who is as politically incorrect as it gets. If you are tired of the “PC” world we live in, you’ll want to check that out.

People are always asking us to try to get this group or that group, and believe me, it’s not as easy as you think. There are a ton of factors that go into which performers will appear at the fair, but that’s a blog post for another day.

I hope we’ve booked one of your favorite entertainers. If not, maybe we will soon. We’ll be announcing more shows in the coming weeks, so stay tuned….

Submitted by Andy Klotz

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

ISF receives high praise!

“And the Oscar goes to…”

Isn’t that momentary pause always exciting? Everyone waiting to see if it’s going to be Johhny Depp or Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep or Julia Roberts.

Well, state fairs recently had plenty of that kind of excitement as they held their version of the Academy Awards at the 119th International Association of Fairs and Expos annual convention, and it turned out to be a banner year for the Indiana State Fair.

Our fair received 13 awards for the 2009 fair (the most we’ve ever won), including the prestigious “Best of Show” award in communications, which basically means that our fair had the best communications campaign of any fair anywhere! Thanks goes to all the wonderful people who help put together the fair’s programming and communications with special recognition to Asher Agency in Ft. Wayne for all its creative help.

It’s really not like us to toot our own horn, but this is something we are all really proud of and we really appreciate the recognition from the IAFE. We take our role as an industry leader seriously, and we hope that all Hoosiers take pride in knowing that we can host as great an event as anyone.

One other significant note from the convention is the installation of Cindy Hoye, our executive director (in the center of the photo receiving our awards), as the new IAFE Chair. It is a well deserved honor after more than two decades of dedicated service to the fair industry.

Good luck, Cindy. We know you will represent Indiana and the IAFE well. We’re very proud!

Submitted by Andy Klotz

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year, New Queen

The passage of time amazes me – how quickly it flies, how slowly it crawls. The dreaded 8th grade band camp I was forced to attend for four long days which now seems a lifetime ago. The vivid phone call I got during the 1997 Indiana State Fair saying my sister’s first child had been born, though four more kids have been added to our family since then. Even more unbelievable…my oldest niece wraps up her high school career this spring, 20 YEARS after my own graduation.

Am I old enough to remember 20 years ago??? My word, I am. I’m even old enough to remember 30…(sigh)…ok, almost 34 years ago. It hardly seems possible.

I’ve worked at the Indiana State Fair my entire adult life – the only “big person” job I’ve ever had. My Fair memories of the last 15 years are catalogued by one primary timeline: who was the State Fair Queen.

As the Queen Pageant coordinator, I am responsible for overseeing every detail of the contest, including the Queen’s summer appearances and travels throughout the State. During June and July of her reign, she will visit roughly 35 county fairs, queen pageants and contestant workshops promoting the upcoming Indiana State Fair and our Queen Pageant, traveling over 6,000 miles in eight weeks before spending 17 days at Indiana’s largest multi-day event.

Where once they were my responsibility, many of the girls are now my friends. I’ve seen them graduate from high school and college; find jobs and boyfriends; get married and have children. (Again, I ask, “Am I that old that my little State Fair Queens are having kids of their own?” And once again, the answer is “Yes…yes, you are. Enough already!”)

Next weekend at the annual Indiana Association of Fairs, Festivals and Events convention, Miss Indiana State Fair 2010, Denae Pyle, will make her first official appearance on our behalf. At some point, we’ll take time to go over her summer ahead: what type of appearances she’ll make and what her parents should expect; keeping track of meal receipts and travel mileage; which parts of the State have the best hotels and the worst gas stations; when we’ll shop for her summer wardrobe and what to wear for different appearances…

…which is the same thing I’ve done since 1995 when Gianna was queen. Except I’ll remember 2010 events taking place during the “Denae’s Year”…20 years after my dear friend, Kelly, reigned over the big event…one year before…wait, now I’m really dating myself.

Happy New Year and a blessed 2010 to all!

Submitted by Bobbi Bates; Denae Pyle's portrait courtesy of Bob List Photography.