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Art at the Indiana State Fair

Some of our favorite things at the fair this year, and the ones you shouldn't miss on your last round through.

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NORA SPITZNOGLE
  • Nora Spitznogle


190 years strong—a Hoosier tradition of home and family arts


Something new happens each day at the Indiana State Fair Home and Family Arts Building with “Best Of” competitions spanning mouth watering apple pie to the hidden zipper in a perfectly stitched garment, with newest cheese ball, chili, crockpot, Spam and salsa concoctions, creative sewing challenges and a haul of most precious vintage items ranging in between; all vying for Blue, Red and White ribbons, or at least an Honorable Mention.

First weekend I specially head for the needlework and quilting showcase that opens with the Fair. The creativity within these traditional arts always amazes. Indeed, in an era when most fingers are busy texting, there still exists a swath of Hoosiers utilizing nimble fingers for stitching comforters, hooking rugs and hankies.

RELATED: Nora at the Fair

On for the duration of the Fair are the best of visual arts works including photography on the top floor and drawings, paintings, sculpture, lapidary, jewelry-making and calligraphy on the performing arts floor below, where you also can catch the Indiana State Fair Young Hoosier State Piano competition on Aug. 23 starting at 9 a.m.

The changing exhibits of tantalizing foodstuffs graces the lower level following daily rounds of competitions on the Home and Family Arts Main Stage.

You also can sit for cooking demonstrations on the Family and Home Arts Culinary Stage and fashion shows and demonstrations on the Main Stage. In fact, you could camp out for a whole day in this classically-styled 1919 structure with its elegant entrance-way and tall arches. Along with the displays of the latest in farming techniques, and best of farm-grown products, prizes for home and handiwork have been awarded since the first Indiana State Fair in 1852.


Domino Sugar sponsored “The Year of the Farmer Cupcake Bake-off contest” opening Sunday of the Fair. I thought of entering with a new recipe using spent grains from a homebrew chocolate stout and homegrown hops but I didn’t make it past page 2 of the 14-page “rule ands regulations” on-line document. I missed attending the bake-off and Nora didn’t blog about it. Anyone privy to the outcome?

Say Cheese! 

If ultimate cheese sculptor Sara Kaufmann turning a 1,450-lb chunk of yellow and white cheddar into a panorama akin to Mt. Rushmore isn’t the most photographed event at each and every Indiana State Fair, I’ll eat it. I’ve been told people line up for first-in-line at Kaufmann’s space to snap photos and get live-action footage from the first incision to the final ta-da—a commitment of several days in a cooler than ordinary space. This year the challenge was to locate the happening. It’s now in the Purdue Agriculture/ Horticulture building at the far west end off Main Street, where it stays on exhibit until the end of the Fair, after which it will be recycled into bio-fuel.

Kaufmann, wearing a t-shirt that advises on its back “Live Legendairy,” takes ephemeral in stride. She’s been traveling the state fair circuit nationwide for 20 years to carve cheese into a meaningful expression of each fair’s theme. A trained commercial artist, she spoofs pressing her ear against the hefty chunk of cheddar to “hear” its inner soul revealing its outer vision.
Indiana this year is celebrating The Year of the Farmer. Kaufmann created a farm family engaged in the quality care of cows on the left and “snapshots” of cows-in-caring on the right side. Milk.Real Fresh.Simple in scrolled lettering adorns the topside. It’s thoughtful and touting nutrition.

To meet her in 2016, show up on the first day of The Fair.

Last stops
Human agility and feats of strength always draw me into an show. The Stars of the Peking Acrobats are back at Family Fun Park daily with free shows daily at 1 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.

I’m aware these folks have bones, but oh my, they can twist and turn into configurations beyond anything I’d even imagine. And then there’s the ceramic jug juggler, and the clown with pratfalls and the combatants leaping and dodging around sword play. And if that isn’t sufficiently impressive, there’s the chairway to heaven, or so it seems, with a very brave man building and ascending a tower initially resting on four green hued bottles, then balancing and pivoting on one hand and look graceful. No safety net. I resumed breathing when I saw his feet planted on firm ground. Spotting Queen and Court in the audience, the troupe didn’t bother to get out of their sparkling costumes to snap selfies with the State Fair royals.

For more wonder join the throng at Family Fun Park for the Xpogo Stunt Team. These athletes soar over nine feet on next-generation pogo sticks, doing free-flying flips and other body tricks and then have the temerity to land with the slightest bounce and an ‘aw sucks’ attitude. They’re on daily at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. 

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