State Fair begins 156th year Friday

    INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Sate Fair enters its 156th year with great expectations. Never before has the fair offered so many notable free stage concerts or as much free family programming all over the fairgrounds, including a full slate of shows, sports and events at the Hoosier Lottery Grandstand.
    The 17-day event kicks off Friday with its traditional Marsh Band Day competition in the Hoosier Lottery Grandstand.  Other grandstand events include the Monster Truck Nationals (Aug. 4), Great American Wild West Show (Aug. 12-13) and the Lucas Oil Indy Mile AMA Pro Flat Track Grand Nationals motorcycle race (Aug. 18).
    King Michael: A Glorious Tribute to the King of Pop starts the run of shows on the Free Stage on Aug. 3.  Additional Free Stage shows include Allstar Weekend (Aug. 4), REO Speedwagon (Aug. 6), Easton Corbin (Aug. 8) and MC Hammer (Aug. 13). 
    There are also countless livestock exhibits and all the popular fair foods to enjoy before closing day Aug. 19.
    “We’re eager to show all Hoosiers the best time they’ve ever had,” State Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye said.  “We’ve added so many high quality events to this fair that it’s going to be hard for us to ever top it.  We hope everyone can attend at least one day and, hopefully, even more.”
    Attending the fair for more than one day has become a little easier on Hoosiers’ budgets, fair officials said, thanks to a new multi-day admission pass. The $18 ticket is good for one admission on three different days, which is a $12 savings off the gate admission price.  The fair is also bringing back its popular Turkey Hill Dairy $2 Tuesdays and many other deals and discounts to keep the event affordable for all families.
    The overall theme of this year’s fair is “Celebrating the Hoosier Spirit,” which will happen in a variety of ways.  It is also the “Year of Dairy Cows” presented by the American Dairy Association of Indiana, which has all kinds of special exhibits and events in store for visitors.  There’s even a new “Moo Chew” meal of grilled American and Pepper Jack cheese with a Lemon Chiller milkshake at the Dairy Bar on Main Street – yum!
     The new DuPont Food Pavilion, also on Main Street, is 16,000 square feet of space completely devoted to explaining where our food comes from and how best to prepare it.  There will be daily cooking demonstrations, nutrition displays and a retail store of specialty foods made and produced right here in Indiana.  Still, the most popular booths may be the commodity groups and food manufacturers offering free samples throughout the entire fair.
    The fair’s headline concerts – Barry Manilow (Aug. 3), Train (Aug. 4), Journey/Pat Benatar/Loverboy (Aug. 8) and Blake Shelton (Aug. 17) – will take place in downtown Indianapolis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, about 10 minutes away from the fairgrounds.  Everyone who goes to these shows also receives a free ticket to the State Fair that is good for any of the fair’s 17 days.