Saturday, August 18, 2012

Cow Milking: Trap, Squeeze, Release, Repeat

Since it is the Year of Dairy Cows here at the State Fair, it only seemed appropriate for me to try my hand at milking a cow for the first time.  After watching the celebrity milking contest a few days ago, I became even more determined to make this happen.  So when the State Fair Queen invited me to join her on a cow-milking adventure, I jumped at the opportunity.  

Meet Elsie. Elsie is a Jersey cow born in 2005. I may be biased, but I think Elsie wins the prettiest cow award for the Livestock Nursery residents.  According to dairy farmer Jeff Jehn, Elsie thinks so too.

After Elsie and I got acquainted, I knelt down in the hay next to her and carefully listened to Jeff as he explained the hand-milking process to me. 

“Really, it’s only a matter of trapping the milk at the top with your thumb and index finger, squeezing down with the rest of your fingers, releasing and then repeat,” Jeff said.

Feeling a rush of confidence after his simple instructions, I crouched over, recited the “trap, squeeze, release, repeat” instructions and gave it a whirl.  When I saw the squirt of milk that my first try produced, I nearly squealed with excitement. 

My pride faded away after a minute of milking when I was humbled to see the measly amount of milk at the bottom of my pail.  Elsie can usually fill half a pail with milk, a feat that takes Jeff about 10 minutes to complete by hand and only five minutes with a machine. 

So even though this experience didn’t transform me into a professional dairy farmer, it was still exciting to learn a few tricks of the trade.  Fairgoers can give it a try too at Cowtown USA in the Family Fun Park. Interactive milking demonstrations begin at 9:30 a.m., 12:30, 3 and 6 p.m.

Old-Time Farm and Antique Auction

Pioneer Village is one aspect of the Indiana State Fair that makes it unique among other state fairs. Fairgoers can take a trip back in time and view antique tractors, participate in old-time farm chores, enjoy down-home music and entertainment and more.

Jim Beaty with the Purdue Agronomy Center for Research and Education helped oversee the Old-time Farm and Antique Auction, which takes place today. He said the money from the donated items that are auctioned goes directly to the Pioneer Village Restoration Fund, which helps "restore the most precious artifacts." The fund also receives about 10 percent of the proceeds from the consignment items that are auctioned.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Herman heads to the fair...again

Where were you in 1928?  Did you even exist then?  Probably not. Herman Schaekel did, though, and that’s when he first visited the Indiana State Fair.  He hasn’t missed one since.

Herman is the reason there is an Indiana State Fair.  A former 4-H’er who first experienced the fair as a young boy, he started showing his Berkshire hogs in 1932 and fell in love with the entire experience.  Even after his 4-H days were done, he started getting his four children involved.  They all showed swine at the fair as well.

That’s what the fair is all about – providing wonderful childhood memories that people eventually want to pass down to the next generation.  Herman worked most of his life as an electrician for the railroad company while also running an 80-acre hog and dairy cow operation. 

Now nearly 90, he still loves coming out to the fair and taking a tour through the Swine Barn.  He’s spent a good part of his life here, never living farther than 20 miles from the State Fairgrounds … and that’s been just fine with him.

Hear some of Herman’s insights and memories in this brief interview.  You’ll also hear from his granddaughter, Jenny, who took a long time to get used to the pervasive smell of hanging out in the hog barn, but wouldn’t change it for the world.

Submitted by Andy Klotz

Thursday, August 16, 2012

You are getting very sleepy…

Be hypnotized by a celebrity – I can now check that one off the bucket list! Proof that you just never know what fun is in store when you venture out to the Indiana State Fair.

I have to confess I was a bit of a doubter. I didn’t totally buy into hypnosis. But Catherine Hickland  succeeded at putting this stressed out over-thinker into a serene, careless and very sleepy state. And it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.

Catherine has an incredibly diverse resumé. She starred in the ABC soap opera “One Life to Live.” She’s an author. Now she has a comedy hypnosis show, where she touches lives and makes people smile. She will be at the fair one more day (Aug. 17) at 10 a.m. and noon.

It’s hard to explain how hypnosis felt. At the beginning, Catherine asked for volunteers from the audience, and I sheepishly walked to the stage. After 5 minutes, I was already preparing myself to leave the stage because I didn’t think it was going to work. But sometime after Catherine instructed us to relax every muscle in our heads and necks, my legs began to feel extremely heavy. I couldn’t feel my feet. My head started moving uncontrollably in circles slowly… slowly. It was as if I was sitting on a cloud, and I was happy about it.

I don’t think I was very deeply hypnotized because I was aware and I remember almost everything that happened. The difference between this and everyday life was that I was sleepy and super-calm, and it didn’t bother me that people were probably getting a good laugh at my expense. At one point I was literally sprawled across the lap of the person next to me! The best thing I can compare it to is those moments when you are coming out of anesthesia.

One of the great parts of Catherine’s show, aside from the hilarity of what people will do when they completely let go of inhibitions, is that it empowers you to conquer those self-imposed mental blockades. She shared a story of one man who participated in the show and from that day on, quit smoking completely.

So I challenge you to come out to the Free Stage on Aug. 17 at 10 a.m. or noon. Let yourself let go… and make sure a friend has a video camera!

(Video from Aug. 15 show at Indiana State Fair)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pumpkins Galore at the Indiana State Fair

Growing up my family carved pumpkins together every October.  After searching through each pumpkin at a nearby garden center we would select the roundest, smoothest and most perfect pumpkin we could find.  We then carefully sketched out our design on the pumpkin, carved our masterpieces and set it on our front porch as Halloween décor. 

I never realized how terrible our jack-o-lanterns were until seeing Ray Villafane’s remarkable carvings.  Check out this carving now on display in the Ball State Ag/Hort Building at the Indiana State Fair and you might feel the same way.

Villafane, a two-time winner of the Food Network’s Challenge Show “Outrageous Pumpkins,” carved this masterpiece along with several other pumpkins during a three-day span in the Ag/Hort Building.  

“It’s a really fluid process,” Villafane said. “It’s not like a chunk of clay that you can start over or change. When you’re carving, sometimes a piece breaks off and you have to adapt as you go. If the design’s coming out a certain way, I go with that.

While carving in the Ag/Hort Building, Villafane often paused to explain his creative process to spectators.  Here is a clip from his presentation on Friday.

These impressive carvings are not the only featured pumpkins at the Indiana State Fair.  Near Villafane’s sculptures, you won’t be able to miss the giant pumpkins on display.  With a 1,293 pound pumpkin, John Barenie from Griffith, Ind. claimed first place for the second straight year and the third time overall at the 11th annual Indiana State Fair Giant Pumpkin Contest.  

The Indiana Pumpkin Growers Association awarded Barenie with a $1,000 check and trophy for his success, although Barenie’s winning pumpkin still fell 15 pounds shy of his state record-holding pumpkin grown in 2011.

Transporting these giant pumpkins is no easy task. During the contest, a forklift lifted each pumpkin and placed it onto the scale as three men worked together to remove its harness. 

Pumpkin growers travelled from as far as Alabama to participate in the State Fair contest, with entries ranging from 260 to 1,293 pounds. 

All of these pumpkins and more are on display through the remainder of the Indiana State Fair in the Ball State Ag/Hort Building.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Celebrating the Hoosier Spirit

The Hoosier Spirit is one of a kind. One year ago today, tragedy struck our fair. The events of Aug. 13, 2011, broke the hearts of Hoosiers everywhere, and we still ache for those who were forever changed. We will never forget those precious lives that were lost.

We also will never forget the tremendous display of strength and compassion that emerged following that moment. From the courage of the first responders to the generosity of the people near and far who supported the relief effort, we are inspired and humbled by the spirit of these caring people. This is the Hoosier Spirit, and we are proud.

Herron School of Art student Jamie Dickerson captured the essence of the Hoosier Spirit in a sculpture that is now on display at the fairgrounds. This symbolic work of art honors Hoosiers everywhere.

It consists of three wooden pieces made with home-grown Indiana hardwood that imitate the texture and coloring of Indiana cornhusks. The husks appear to grow and twist into stylized shelters as they curve toward the sky, each with an opening that invites viewers to walk into the sculpture. It represents the strength of the Hoosier Spirit by celebrating one of Indiana’s vital resources – corn – which is one of the most productive and versatile crops in the world.

(To view an in-depth interview with Jamie, click here)

This year, we hope you will join us in celebrating what makes our state great. Thank you for all your support.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Closer Look at the Hot Air Balloon Launch

Year after year early risers wake up while it’s still dark outside and drive to the fairgrounds to see the Indiana State Fair Hot Air Balloon Launch begin at sunrise.  With coffee cups in hand, crowds gather in the infield to watch as incredible colors drift through the sky.  

This year, windy weather conditions limited the number of hot air balloons able to launch.  Since safety is a top priority, fair officials left it up to the pilots’ discretion on whether or not to launch.  While only three of the 17 hot air balloons launched, fair guests still got a look at each balloon’s inflation and flight process.

For those of you who didn’t make it out to the fairgrounds by sunrise, here’s an up close look at one balloon’s take-off:

What the kids will love at the Indiana State Fair

One of the great things about the Indiana State Fair is that there is something for everyone to enjoy. Families with kids -- there is plenty of entertainment to captivate young and old alike!

Bixby's Rainforest Rescue show in the Family Fun Park is a must-see on a family outing. I am 22 years old and I still said "awww!" when DJ the lemur pranced out on stage on a leash. Not only is this a cute animal show, but it is also educational. It's a fun way for kids to learn a little bit about the rainforest.

While you're in the area, you can stroll on over to the Flippenout Extreme Trampoline Show. This is a little different from jumping on the family trampoline in the backyard. They do triple flips, walk up a wall and -- oh yeah -- jump with skiis and snowboards attached to their feet! Be ready to clap and cheer because these athletes feed off your energy!

And that'll just get you started! If you're out here Aug. 12-13, you can take the kids to see The Ohmies at the Free Stage. They'll have everyone dancing and singing along to their upbeat show. Little Hands on the Farm has been a family favorite for several years, giving kids the chance to experience farm life in a fun and interactive way. Finally, the Kids' Day Midway Special is coming up on Aug. 13, with unlimited rides for kids from noon-10 p.m. for just $15.

We'll see you and your family out at the fair!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Rising Stars Perform on XFINITY Main Street Stage

I used to be a superstar. I practiced my dance moves in dress-up clothes, wore my mother’s lipstick and belted Britney Spears songs into my inflatable microphone in front of millions. Okay fine, maybe it was actually just in front of my bedroom mirror.  Either way, I was on my way to stardom. 

Southern Indiana’s Rachel Timberlake experienced similar moments, but only behind closed doors. 

“I was way too shy and embarrassed to ever let anyone watch me sing,” Rachel said. “If you would have asked 15 years ago what I wanted to do when I grew up, being a country music star wouldn’t have crossed my mind.”

In fact, Rachel never even participated in her school’s choir. Instead basketball dominated her teenage years and continued to at Franklin College until an injury forced her to give up the sport.

After graduation, Rachel began teaching fifth grade in Corydon, Ind. and married her high school sweetheart, Jason. 

“My husband and I had everything planned out.  You graduate high school, then college, then you get married and buy a house and then you have kids,” Rachel said.  “When it was time to start a family we tried really hard, but the kid part of our plan never happened.”

When the possibility of never having her own children became a reality, listening to country music helped Rachel cope with the heartbreak. 

“Music helped me remember that things don’t always work out as planned and showed me that life holds other opportunities,” she said.

Sure enough, Rachel discovered her new goal during a trip to Nashville for her 5-year anniversary.  After some heavy coaxing by her husband, Rachel sang on stage for the first time. 

Three years later, FAME Review says Rachel is on her way to the top of country music. 

Her wide range of music inspiration, ranging from 80s pop to R&B, gives her self-titled CD a unique sound that she describes as country crossed with Midwestern rock.  Check out Rachel singing her biggest hit, “Honky Tonk Queen” live in concert.

Right now the band is still independent, but Rachel’s husband, and manager, keeps them busy with shows every weekend during the school year and non-stop all summer. 

“I want music to be my full-time job,” said Rachel. “I know it takes baby steps to get there, but eventually I want to sign with a record label.  I want the big performances and the screaming fans. I want to make it big.”

Known for her high-energy stage presence and zumba-inspired dance moves, Rachel guarantees fairgoers will have fun watching her perform live at the Indiana State Fair on Aug. 10.  The concert begins at 8 p.m. on the XFINITY Main Street Stage.   

“I always have so much fun performing and when the audience gets excited our band feeds off that energy,” Rachel said. “There is nothing better than seeing people having a good time at my shows.”

A Salute to 4-H Grand Champions

Indiana’s 4-H members are a defining factor in the Indiana State Fair’s commitment to youth and agriculture.  For 4-Hers, the State Fair is the finale to a year-round commitment to their projects. The fair’s 4-H livestock shows come to an end with the Grand Champion Drive, a very special night for 4-Hers.

For those of you not familiar with the 4-H world, the Grand Champion Drive is a livestock show for the best of the best. During the fair, judges choose a champion animal from each breed. These champions then move on to compete against the other breed winners in their species in the Grand Champion Drive.  During the drive, a judge selects one animal to be the Grand Champion. 

The Grand Champion, the Reserve Grand Champion and the other qualifying animals will participate in the Sale of Champions this Saturday, August 11.

Congratulations to all Grand Champions in the 2012 Grand Champion Drive!

Barrows: Crossbred
Evan Gilliland, LaGrange County

Gilts: Duroc
Alida Jackson, Hendricks County

Heifers: Simmental
Claire Trennepohl, Henry County

Steers: Chianina
Cole Wilcox, Lawrence County

Market Goats: Middle Weight
Bradyn Ford, Benton County

Market Lambs: Black Face Market
Justin Wiloughby, Hamilton County

Ten year 4-H member and Westfield High School graduate Justin Willoughby can’t imagine his last year of 4-H having a better ending.

“He’s one of the best we’ve ever shown but when I was waiting for the judge to make his decision, I was so nervous,” Willoughby said. “I just kept hoping the judge would walk toward me and when he did it felt pretty awesome.” 

Willoughby also won the Grand Champion title in 2007.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

4-H'ers shining bright at Indiana State Fair

4-H is the heart and soul of the Indiana State Fair. I took some time to meet several participants who specialize in a variety of projects, and I was so impressed by their knowledge and enthusiasm about their projects.

Indiana 4-H'ers are the cream of the crop nationwide, making Indiana one of the best exhibitions of talent and expertise. The program is a hands-on educational experience where the kids learn practical skills that will stick with them forever. It's an amazing program in a state where agriculture and livestock drive the economy.

I hope you make it out to the fair this year to see the results of all their hard work. I promise you'll learn something!

- Posted by Katie Coffin

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Girl Scouts celebrate 100th anniversary

Today was Girl Scout Day at the Indiana State Fair, and it was quite a celebration. The scouts have something pretty special to celebrate this year -- the organization's 100th birthday!

From small beginnings in Savannah, Ga., by founder Juliette Gordon Low, the organization has grown to include 3.2 million girls and volunteers nationwide. As a member of Girl Scouts for the vast majority of my childhood, this makes me so proud.

I have many fond memories and funny stories from my time as a Girl Scout. We went on camping trips, we had movie nights, we staged performances. I still get grief from my fellow Girl Scout alumnae about one time we were on a camping trip. I got scared of the bugs so I proceeded to spray an entire can of Off! inside our tent. I'm not sure how we didn't suffocate that night.

But there's even more to this great organization than fun and smiles. It's a true learning experience. We took trips to places like Conner Prairie and the zoo, and we even drove to Washington, D.C., one year. My troop leader was an outstanding female role model, and is still a positive influence in my life. I think most Girl Scouts feel the same way, and that's why millions of girls pledge membership.

When you come out to the fair this year, you can see many of the ways the Girl Scouts are involved and celebrating their milestone. Today, they hosted a fashion show and a sing-a-long on the Free Stage and then enjoyed the Allstar weekend concert together.

Through the fair, the scouts are the presenting sponsor of the Livestock Nursery and host a fun booth beside it. Also, deep-fried Samoa Girl Scout cookies are proving to be one of the most intriguing foods to fairgoers this year. You've got to join us and try one!

Winchester Community High School Wins Again

A big congratulations goes out to Winchester Community High School for winning its second straight Indiana State Fair Band Day title!

Winchester students credit the band’s success to their director, Douglas Fletcher. With 12 championships at four different schools between 1989 and 2012, Fletcher holds the record for the most Band Day wins by an individual.

“I am so proud of this group, but I know we wouldn’t be here without Mr. Fletcher,” sophomore Lane Honeycutt said. “He pushes us to be the best and he inspires us to leave a legacy at our school.”

The results for the "Sweet Sixteen" are as follows:

  1. Winchester Community High School
  2. Muncie Southside High School
  3. Richmond High School
  4. Northeastern High School
  5. Centerville High School
  6. East Central High School
  7. Jay County High School
  8. Anderson High School
  9. Noblesville High School
  10. Frankton High School
  11. Muncie Central High School
  12. Kokomo High School
  13. Union County High School
  14. Yorktown High School
  15. Mooresville High School
  16. Elwood Community High School

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fourty Six Indiana Marching Bands Compete in the State Fair Band Day Preliminaries

Considering my lack of musical talent, I was more than impressed by my first experience at today’s Indiana State Fair Band Day Competition.  Between the color guards’ precision and the drums’ resounding beat, all 46 bands put on a show worthy of mention. 

However, only the following bands will advance to the “Sweet Sixteen” and compete in tonight’s final competition: 

Anderson High School
Centerville High School
East Central High School
Elwood High School
Frankton High School
Jay County High School
Kokomo High School
Mooresville High School
Muncie Central High School
Muncie Southside High School
Noblesville High School
Northeastern High School
Richmond High School
Union County High School
Winchester Community High School
Yorktown High School

The class awards for the preliminary competition are as followed:

Class A
Class AA
Class AAA
3rd Place
2nd Place
Muncie Southside
1st Place

Finals begin at 8 p.m. with the last band to compete at 10:30 p.m. We’ll share the results with you as soon as they are announced!

If you’ve never been to Band Day or just couldn’t make it this year, look through a few pictures from the preliminary round.