Writer / Samantha Kupiainen
Photography provided

Three of the most highly anticipated weeks in Indiana are almost here — the Indiana State Fair.

The Indiana State Fair runs from Friday, August 2, through Sunday, August 18. This year’s theme, Heroes in the Heartland, which is presented by the Indiana Donor Network, salutes the countless Hoosiers who keep our country safe and make residents proud. Those heroes include farmers, first responders, educators, members of the Armed forces and cultural heroes as well.

“The theme is always really important because it helps us develop all the activation and all the programming from year to year, from fair to fair,” says Sharon Smith, Director of Communications for the Indiana State Fair Commission.

Smith adds that when planning the state fair, it was important that it aligned well with an organization or business that really complimented the Heroes of the Heartland theme, such as the Indiana Donor Network.

“The theme serves as a touchpoint to so many individuals and organizations and has such a broad appeal, again, with the balance between superheroes and cultural heroes,” Smith says. “It will touch a lot of Hoosiers and a lot of lives, and that’s why we selected that particular theme.”

In addition to a new theme, the fair also has a wide selection of new features for guests to enjoy.

“We’re bringing back the Big Top Circus, which was wildly popular last year,” Smith says. “It’s returning with new acts, though we will be bringing back Bello Nock, who is a kind of comic daredevil. He was extremely popular last year. I think people will be happy to see him back again.”

Other new amenities include a $5 fast pass for reserved seating at the Big Top. It will allow folks to have premium seating, so they won’t have to wait in line for first-come, first-served seating. However, free seating will also be offered for those who won’t wish to pay and are able to wait.

Another new feature this year is a popular trend from across the country — goat yoga. Sixty-minute sessions will be offered at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Folks can register on the Indiana State Fair website for one of the $20 sessions.

Also returning this year is Animal Town, which features eight different barnyard animals from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. each day of the fair. It’s located east of the Hoosier Lottery Grandstand next to the Communications Building.

“It was very popular last year,” Smith says. “It allowed folks to get up close and personal with barnyard animals and learn about them. Animal Town makes it a lot more user-friendly to get up close and personal with a variety of animals and learn all about them in a user-friendly way. There is a lot of posted information about the animals that you can take in at your leisure.”

The Indiana State Fair also has new menu items. For Smith, her favorite part of the fair is its food.

“We always offer some crazy, whacky and always delicious kind of extraordinary food item,” Smith says.

Some new items include the Indiana Pork BBQ Split, which is offered by Indiana Pork Producers. The menu item is served just like a banana split — three scoops of pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, and coleslaw all served on top of a baked potato.

Monroe’s Big Dog Diner is also offering fair-goers its Monroe’s Midwest Hero — a hand-breaded tenderloin with cheese, bacon and Monroe’s special sassy sauce. The Dairy Bar is also debuting its Hoosier Hometown Hash — two grilled hash brown patties surrounded by four types of cheese: Muenster, pepper jack, cheddar and Swiss.

Urick Concessions will be serving up deep-fried cookie ice cream sandwiches, while Red Frazier Bison is featuring bison hush puppies.

To have the best fair experience, Smith suggests going on $2 Tuesday.

“If you come on $2 Tuesday, you can sample a lot of different food items for $2,” Smith says. “Admission is $2, parking is $2, and food samples are $2. That’s a great way to experience the fair. Use $2 Tuesday to go around and sample some things, not just the food and activities. You can come back another day and focus more on what you really love.”

The Indiana State Fair runs from Friday, August 2 through Sunday, August 18. It’s located at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, 1202 E. 38th St. For additional information, such as a list of vendors and hours of operation, visit them online at indianastatefair.com/state-fair.

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