Tuesday, August 16, 2011

#49. The Indiana State Fair

Usually the Indiana State Fair is something best remembered for its horrifying fried creations (first Twinkies, then butter, now Kool Aid) and pungent livestock. In a cataclysmic and devastating tragedy, this year's fair will go down in history as the year when five people died and many more were injured when a stage collapsed during a storm. This freak accident definitely left a somber mark on this year's Fair as people everywhere prayed for the unfortunate victims.

Fair officials did an excellent job dealing with the disaster and a memorial fund has been instituted. Although the hearts of Hoosiers go out to the families and victims, the Fair is continuing to its arranged end.

While several concerts and events were re-scheduled because of the accident, the popular $2 Tuesday took place today as planned. The Indiana State Fair can be very expensive as the admission, parking, food, and rides quickly add up. As an impending college student, my budget is limited and $2 Tuesday allowed me partake in every fair activity that I desired.

The savings began as soon as I entered the fair. Before arriving at the fairgrounds, I called ahead to ensure that free infield parking was still available. It was, and I attribute this to the fact that many schools are already in session, thus significantly reducing the number of potential fair goers. This allowed me my first savings of the day, as parking is usually $5 or more outside of the fairgrounds. Frugality continued with a printed-out $2 admission voucher.

Once inside, my friends and I were delighted to find that all Midway rides were $2, which is still pricey but much better than the normal rates.

We rode the Crazy Mouse, a spinning roller coaster that we all loved as children. It was just as cool as I remembered.

After the Crazy Mouse, we rode the Freak Out. It was a claw-like ride that spun in the air while oscillating back and forth. It was exhilarating and really fun, but way too short. The ride was over within a minute and a half. I guess that's what you get for $2.

Our time at the Midway ended after the disappointing brevity of the Freak Out. We instead made our way to the Ellison Bakery Home & Family Arts Building. Inside was a collection of quilts, photographs, paintings, and clothing. There was also an impressive Lego display of both Lucas Oil Stadium (home of the Colts football team) and the Indianapolis 500.

Lucas Oil on left; Motor Speedway on right
Once our "artsy" appetite was satiated, we catered to our actual appetites. Because it was $2 Tuesday, many food vendors offered $2 specials. The smaller sizes were perfect for us because we wanted to sample a variety of foods without feeling too guilty. I started with a half order of fried green tomatoes with ranch. It was excellent and just as good as the movie.

Fried food really does not photograph well
After some more wandering, I had a pepperjack grilled cheese, one of the entries for the Official Indiana State Fair Food Contest. It was also delicious and a $2 special.

After the food fill, we entered the "Willkomenn to Germany!" exhibit. There was a replica of the Berlin Wall and a man dressed as St. Nikolas, although we momentarily thought he was an overly hairy Pope Benedict XVI. In all honesty, this exhibit was a let down. Last year's Japan exhibit was much cooler, as it boasted an oragami making station, cute anime-ish hand outs, fried sushi, and green tea ice cream. The stereotypical German exhibit felt like a cheap attempt at a biergarten, something one would expect from a Midwestern state fair.

Berlin Wall replica

Once we left the German exhibit we got more food because hey! it's the State Fair! We split a smaller $2 portion of fried ice cream, the 2011 Indiana State Fair Signature Food. It was sweet and cinnamon-ey, but the few spoonfuls I had were more than enough for me.

 A few hours later, we were back on the food stretch and split a $2 half order of fried cookie dough. I am usually averse to most things fried, especially dessert, but clearly this year I abandoned such snobbery. I must admit that it was worth giving up this dietary limitation, if only for the day. Otherwise I would never have experienced the delight that is fried cookie dough.


I think I ate enough fried food today to avoid all things fried until next year's fair, if not longer.

Surprisingly I did not go into food comatose and was able to enjoy the rest of the Fair's offerings. A short walk from the food strip was the DowAgro Sciences Celebration Park, the location of the Peking Acrobat show. For half an hour (although it seemed much longer), the best stars of the Chinese acrobatic troupe amazed the crowd with their mind boggling strength, coordination, and artistry.

Soooo impressive

How many Chinese acrobats does it take to ride a bike?
Once the performance ended, we wandered around the 4H exhibition hall. While inside, I saw that one of my friends and his brother both had insect collections. This was quite an accomplishment to make it to the State Fair, and his brother even won a blue ribbon!

Congrats Collin!

When 3:30 rolled around, we settled in for the Blue Monkey Sideshow. Elaborate juggling, an eerily flexible "Rubber Man," and a man who lifted a bowling ball with his earlobes were odd enough to justify the sideshow moniker. Unfortunately I did not see any sword swallowing like I did at last year's show, but the narrator explained that each show was different.

For the remainder of our time at the fair we wandered around the livestock barns, saw the world's largest boar, and a draft horse competition.

It was a full, fun day that only cost me $12 (I split the cost of food with friends). Ah, how I love $2 Tuesday!

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