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‘As I See It’ by Gary Truitt: The Dumbing Down of the Indiana State Fair

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Photo: C.J. Miller / Hoosier Ag Today.

The Indiana State Fair is entering the home stretch. For those of us who have regularly attended the Fair, there was something different about it this year.

I have been struggling to try and put my finger on it. I think it is not one thing, but a whole lot of little things that gave the Fair a different feel.

The demolition of the Swine Barn was part of it. Not having that building resulted in hog shows being moved to different days and locations.  Many other animals also found themselves in different locations.

The Agricultural/Horticultural building has very little ag or “hort” in it — mostly commerce.  The sudden appearance of alcohol vendors in several places around the grounds was a definite change.

There was also a lot more focus on food than farm. In her opening day interview with Hoosier Ag Today, Executive Director Cindy Hoye said, “Our research shows that food is the number one reason people come to the Fair.” It used to be animals were the main reason people came.  With the rearranged schedule, there were days it was hard to find any animals there.

There was no shortage of food, however, and a lot of it has little to do with farming in Indiana. Hoosier livestock groups did their best to serve up some ag education along with their pork, beef, dairy, and other items. The new, exotic, and just plain strange food concoctions got most of the media attention.

Speaking of media attention, the Indianapolis TV media hit a new low in coverage of the Indiana State Fair. WISH-TV meteorologist Randy Ollis showed up for a live shot at the 4-H dairy show in bib overalls!  During his other fair coverage, he had on logoed shirts, but someone at the station felt covering an ag event required a demeaning and stereotypical costume. Indy Style reporter Amber Hankins went Ollis one better by broadcasting from the Fair in “Daisy Duke” style, bib overall shorts!

So, while the Glass Barn was telling Fair visitors that farmers are high tech and Indiana Farm Bureau was trying to connect food to fork with Taste from Indiana Farms, WISH-TV was keeping the image of Green Acres and American Gothic alive.

The Indiana State Fair Board has done a great job in the past few years of keeping agriculture front and center at the Fair. In 2022, I think we took a few steps backward.

That’s how I see it.

Gary Truitt

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Hoosier Ag Today, its employees, advertisers, or affiliated radio stations.