The Year of the Dairy Cow.
No, not a Chinese zodiac reference (I’m a PIG anyway). This is the theme of the Indiana State Fair, starting next Saturday, August 3 and first held in 1852. The American Dairy Association of Indiana is sponsoring this endeavor, and a beautiful bovine named Buttercup is playing host to adults and kids alike at the fairgrounds. Last year was the Year of the Soybean … sorry I missed it.
According to the Blue Ribbon Blog: “There are more than 1,500 dairy farms in Indiana housing 176,000 cows. These farms produce about 3.5 billion pounds of milk, accounting for nearly $500 million in milk production each year. Indiana also ranks second nationally in ice cream production.” That’s a lot of dairy.
I just missed my chance to enter the Big Cookie Decorating contests co-sponsored by the ADA and Ellison Bakery. A 6-inch cookie canvas and milk to motivate the artists? Brilliant. But I will NOT miss the goods at Cowtown USA: a chance to milk a cow, carve some cheese, and chow down. Think about all the glorious things made from dairy products: milkshakes, butter, grilled cheese sandwiches, ice cream. I love this fair already and I’m not even there yet.
Having never been to a state fair before, I have some preconceived notions that I must confess:
* There really are blue ribbons awarded to competitors
* Produce can win prizes; one of these must be for Biggest [insert vegetable here]
* Some sort of eating contest must take place
* Small children showcase their animals for bragging rights
* There should be a tilt-a-whirl or a Ferris wheel
* All food is fried, from cookies to corn dogs
* Somewhere among the livestock is a beauty pageant, and reigning royalty
* The scene is wholesome by day, and shitfaced by night
* A spider lives in the eaves of each pig stall and spins prophetic webs after dark
Ok maybe no E. B. White characters, but some photo-worthy moments to be sure. I also have some outrageous secondhand stories floating around in my memory about cow-patty throwing and pig-calling, but I remain open minded. What I did not expect was a long list of entertainers at the fair, from Barry Manilow to Journey to Blake Shelton. Mat Kearney is playing on the same stage as Train, but one ticket ranges between $50-75, which I am not paying. I should add that MC Hammer is also on the schedule. I hope they put a cow in parachute pants.
General admission is $10, but you can find discount tickets ($7) at local Indiana stores like Walmart, CVS, and others. There is a $2 Tuesday admission, sponsored by Turkey Hill (more dairy, obviously). Tuesday is also the night of “Taste of the Indiana State Fair” but that’s a long haul for me on a weeknight. Nonetheless, promises of food from “corn dogs to deep fried oreos; pineapple whip to ears of corn; fried cheese to a chicken parfait” are very enticing. I also stumbled across a significant list of savings opportunities online for Indiana state employees, car-poolers, seniors and more.
The Midway appears to be an expensive affair – up to $25 for a wristband. The Indiana State Fair website advertises big savings at local Walmarts, where you can buy a wristband for $18. There are several early bird opportunities, but I’m not sure I can handle roller coaster action at 11 a.m. Free parking does exist at a nearby mall parking lot 4 miles from the fairgrounds, with shuttle service running every 20 minutes from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Affordable $5 parking is also available near the main gate, or a short distance away.
My camera and I will be in attendance on Saturday, August 4: “Ball State Day.” Stay tuned for tales from the fair!