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

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Take a Swing with Travelers at the Indiana State Fair

Travelers will be at the State Fair with an array of fun activities for fairgoers to enjoy. From testing out their golf skills at the famous Chipping Challenge to win an iPod, to the interactive driving game and cell phone charging station, this booth is definitely worth a stop for the whole family. In addition, participants can learn more about safe driving habits and the benefits of Travelers new product, IntelliDrive®.

Chipping Challenge: Fans can take a golf shot at a floating green in the shape of the iconic Travelers red umbrella. For every hole-in-one throughout the weekend, fans will win an iPod.

Photo Experience: Fans can have a souvenir picture taken and placed on the official program cover of the State Fair.
Travelers IntelliDrive Experience: A customized interactive Driving Game that shows participants how to become safer drivers and how Travelers IntelliDrive can help consumers monitor their driving habits, while also saving money. IntelliDrive is an innovative way to price auto insurance that offers a discount at renewal for low mileage vehicles. Mileage is tracked via a device that is easily inserted into your vehicle. The IntelliDrive Program can help Travelers customers become safer drivers.

Additional Travelers Activities:  Travelers is giving away prizes to those who complete a survey, available on a first-come, first-serve basis. They are also offering a cell phone charging station at the event site.

The Travelers Tent is located at the southwest corner of Celebration Park – look for the red tent tops. Make sure you stop by soon, Travelers will only be there from Friday, August 2 to Sunday, August 4.

Written by Rachel Feldman

Friday, August 2, 2013

Winchester Takes the Title!

Congratulations to Winchester Community High School for winning its third straight Indiana State Fair Band Day title!

Winchester students credit the band’s success to director Douglas Fletcher's goal to present a positive idea to the audience and band members while sending students away with lifelong lessons. The theme of this year’s show was “Facing Life’s Giant.”
“Extra hard work and sending a good message is what Band Day is all about for Winchester,” said senior Megan Baly.

The results for the “Sweet Sixteen” are as follows:

  1. Winchester Community High School
  2. Muncie Southside High School
  3. Richmond High School
  4. Anderson High School
  5. Centerville High School
  6. Jay County High School
  7. Kokomo High School
  8. East Central High School
  9. Noblesville High School
  10. Northeastern Jr/Sr High School
  11. Mooresville High School
  12. Hagerstown High School
  13. Muncie Central High School
  14. Lebanon High School
  15. Yorktown High School
  16. Monroe Central Jr/Sr High School
Posted by: Hilary Welter

Making a house a home at the Indiana State Fair

Most people will say their favorite part of the Great Indiana State fair is the food or the midway, but truly there is so much more to the fair…there’s the Hoosier Spirit. The Habitat for Humanity Home located on the north side is a showcase of the heart and soul of the fair. For the fourth straight year, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Indianapolis is partnering with Indiana Agriculture sponsors to construct an entire three-bedroom house at the State Fair in 14 days!

Working alongside 27 sponsors and more than 350 volunteers, future homeowner Joseph Olumullah will help build his first home.

“Growing up partially in the streets of Nairobi and rural western Kenya, I often dreamed about owning my own home,” Olumullah said. “It [will be] a milestone in my life and great pleasure indeed to call myself a homeowner! My son Jayden will have his own room and a place to play after school.”

Habitat for Humanity recipient, Joseph Olumullah

Construction of this Habitat home will continue all 14 days of the fair with hundreds of volunteers from local companies and organizations will be rolling up their sleeves to meet the demanding construction schedule. Fairgoers will be able to tour the home and a home dedication will take place on Aug. 16.

Indiana State Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye
“Each year we’re excited to celebrate the generosity of hardworking Hoosiers through the Habitat Ag Build,” Indiana State Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye said. “It’s wonderful to see so many people giving their time and talents to others in a way that has real and lasting impact on our community.”

Thursday, August 1, 2013

GO Ahead & Play at the State Fair

My weekly piano lesson was one of my favorite activities during my elementary school years. There’s nothing like mastering a new song! This year Indiana State Fair visitors will also have the opportunity to play the piano, thanks to Women’s Fund GO Ahead & Play.

GO Ahead & Play is a public art project led by 25 local 6-12th grade students designed to bring music to public spaces, and make arts accessibly to the community. Local artists have painted and decorated 20 pianos into interactive, playable pieces of art. Each tells a story and invites the public to play.

Indiana State Fair visitors are among those invited to play. The “Back Home Again” themed piano, designed by Sheryl Smith Hays, will be in the Home and Family Arts Building every day of the fair. Stop by and try it out, whether you’re playing a classic favorite or for the first time!

Also, keep an eye out for the other 19 pianos at key locations in the Indianapolis and Carmel area including streets, in parks, on trails, at museums, and at community centers. These pianos are open for any community member to play and enjoy!

Poster by: Hilary Welter