By Doug Graves
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota’s state fairs have been scrubbed for 2020 because of coronavirus concerns. Last week, Indiana was added to that list.
The Indiana State Fair Commission and the Indiana State Fair Board announced June 4 that this year’s Indiana State Fair will not take place, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the culprit. However, 4-H members with livestock will be able to participate in livestock shows that will be held in August.
“Safety is our number one priority,” said Cindy Hoye, executive director of the commission. “We’ve spent months working through options that would allow us to host the fair.”
Commission Chairman Brad Chambers said, “Unfortunately, key elements including vendors and partners of the fair began falling off.”
The first Indiana State Fair was held in downtown Indianapolis in 1852. It’s the sixth oldest state fair in the country. This marks only the third time in the fair’s history that it was canceled. The fair was canceled and the fairgrounds were used to support war efforts in 1861 (Civil War) and World War II (1942-1945).
Last year, nearly 879,000 people attended the fair.
“Agriculture and youth are the foundation of our mission and the heartbeat of the Indiana State Fair,” Hoye said. “For this reason we are going to honor our 4-H members with a version of that state fair experience that allows Indiana’s youth to be recognized for their dedication and hard work.”
Officials have scheduled a modified State Fair 4- Livestock Show with additional activities that will be held at the state fairgrounds in August. The event will focus on the human and animal connections, development and youth education.
“Not all state fairs that have canceled this year have been able to pivot and create a modified 4-H show for youth,” said Sharon Smith, fair communications director. She said the livestock show will be on weekends only, Aug. 7 through Sept. 5.
“We were scheduled to host the 163rd Indiana State Fair and after a lot of discussion about the fair and COVID-19 we pivoted and decided to focus on 4-Hers and allow them to participate,” Smith said. “The decision to cancel the state fair was not taken lightly as hours and hours of planning went into the 2020 State Fair, but some of that will be leveraged to 2021.”
Smith said there is a section for frequently asked questions for 4-H exhibitors on the Indiana State Fair website, adding that the site lists all the different 4-H shows for those interested in dairy, swine, horse, beef and others.
Entries to the 2020 Indiana State Fair will be automatically refunded, and anyone interested in participating in the 4-H Livestock Show will have to re-enter beginning June 26.
The deadline for 4-H DNA and 4-H Online animal identification to be compete and submitted is July 1. Deadlines for show entries must be complete at www.indianastatefair.com by Aug. 3.
“We have a lot of great work ahead,” said Spencer Morris, livestock director at the Indiana State Fairgrounds and Event Center.
Fairgoers who have already purchased tickets for 2020 have two options: Do nothing and allow tickets to rollover for the 2021 Indiana State Fair or pursue a refund at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Indiana State Fair has a history second to none in the United States. In 1877, the newly invented telephone was on exhibit. In 1907, the original Fairgrounds Coliseum was erected. In 1912, fairgoers saw the first 4-H exhibits in Indiana as the 4-H Club opened up in the state.
In 1947, high school marching bands across the state converged before the grandstand for the fair’s first high school marching band contest. The Indiana State Fair attracted top entertainment through the years. The Beatles performed before 30,000 fans in 1964, while the Jackson 5 appeared in 1973.