Spongebob and his fruit drink stand weren’t new, but I will never get tired of them.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
It’s that time again! The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. Usually we’re all about the food…
…but as the old Indiana Beach commercials used to say: There’s more than corn in Indiana!
It always annoyed me that we as a state felt we had to say that, after years of corn-heavy culture that our ancestors apparently endorsed and enforced. Some of them made the Hoosier State what it is today, but we used to take a lot of heat from other states for all that corny corn-corn-cornity-cornadocious corn talk. By the same token, food isn’t the only reason to attend our State Fair! It’s my favorite reason, but our annual explorations go beyond just eating, more eating, and the walks that connect the eating moments.
It took a while to get those other things started, though. We arrived at the fairgrounds on a rainy Tuesday morning at 8:15, shortly after the gates opened. We pulled up to the ticket booths, found no one on duty, and kept on driving toward the main parking lot under the assumption that we would eventually encounter some form of cashier to take our tickets and charge us for parking. Once inside the lot, a few traffic directors in raincoats waved us toward the plentiful prime spaces near the entrance tunnel, next to a handful of other early arrivals. We obeyed and parked. We waited for anyone to knock on our window.
Once we realized we’d somehow gamed the system without meaning to, we continued sitting in the car because there was no sense getting wet before any of the exhibits opened at 9.
And then the fair-going began in earnest.
Me drying off in a restroom whose mirrors were decorated with beef trivia.
A damp, closed Midway is the saddest Midway of all.
The selection of restored antiques at the Indiana Arts Building seemed muted this year, but did feature a Unisphere scarf that reminded me of a past vacation.
A bittersweet moment at the Expo Hall. Anne’s Mamaw loved the dark candies at the South Bend Chocolate Company. This was our first time seeing them after her passing in June. Later in the day, their founder was behind the counter on duty, offering free samples and taking orders.
The unwieldy rebranded Purdue Extension Ag/Hort Building is the place to be for super-sized vegetable competitions.
Giant sunflower heads! sound less appetizing, but someone’s made a hobby of them.
Cutting-edge hardware used to gauge the various seed-spitting contests.
Charlie Chaplin scarecrow, which works when you realize scarecrows are also silent and hate Nazis.
Fallback selfie station for anyone who doesn’t want to wait for photo ops with actually fascinating objects.
A dark “relaxation” booth provided lush aerial scenery, soothing narration, and quiet music all completely ruined by a staticky sound system that kept me nonstop annoyed.
I usually take a few bonsai pics because they remind me of The Karate Kid Part III, but they usually end up as outtakes. This one’s a narrow leaf ficus whose sign said it was previously exhibited at EPCOT in 1994.
The rain went away and the sun returned by 11 a.m. The rest of the fair came to life, including the carnival games and their coveted prizes, protected out here in the open by the honor system.
Fields on the north side of the fairgrounds showcase 21st-century tractors for all your heaviest war-farm needs.
Occasionally a park ranger will walk the Department of Natural Resources Building and introduce some docile wildlife, such as this black king snake.
We never noticed this wall of fundraiser bricks before, not even the ostentatious one etched with the name of popcorn magnate and Indiana native Orville Redenbacher.
The Skyride, which lets visitors traverse the full length of the south straightaway, was introduced last year. One day we’ll trust it and try it.
We tend to avoid the animal barns due to pervasive toxic odors that ruin our appetites, but one side lot by the grandstand housed a handful of sample farm animals in the blissful open air. Cutest of show: this bunny!
By mid-afternoon, temperatures were back in the 80s and all the rainwater had evaporated. Once again, the electric fans and cooling jets became the greatest objects around.
Mandatory annual cheese sculpture-in-progress shot. Presumably the finished product is even better.
…and then we went home and I napped for almost three hours.
The End. Lord willing, we’ll see ’em again next year.
Other chapters in this year’s special MCC miniseries:
Part 1: Our Year in Food
Part 2: The Year of the Circus
Part 3: The Art of the Fair