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History of the Indiana State Fair

 

The Indiana State Fair is full of history and long-standing traditions.  It is the sixth oldest state fair in the nation dating back to 1852, and has been held every year with the exceptions of 1861 (Civil War) and 1942-1945 (WWII).

The original purpose of the fair was to allow Indiana’s farmers to get together to share ideas, view the most modern farming techniques and display their products.  The fair has stayed true to these ideals and continues to be a yearly highlight for thousands of Hoosiers.

Indiana’s first State Fair took place in what is now known as Military Park in downtown Indianapolis. The fair has not always been held in the state capital, however.  Other host cities include Lafayette (1853), Madison (1854), New Albany (1859), Ft. Wayne (1865) and Terre Haute (1867).  The fair moved to its current location at East 38th Street and Fall Creek Parkway in 1892.

Historical Indiana State Fair Moments

  • 1852 - The first Indiana State Fair is held in downtown Indianapolis.
  • 1892 -The fair moves to its current location at 38th and Fall Creek (farmland back then). 
  • 1907 -The original Fairgrounds Coliseum is built.
  • 1916 - A new 2,000-foot high-speed roller coaster is erected.
  • 1919 - The Exposition Hall opens its doors.
  • 1922 - The East Pavilion (Draft Horse Barn) is built.
  • 1939 - The original Fairgrounds Coliseum is constructed.
  • 1947 - The first Indiana State Fair High School Marching Band Contest is held.
  • 1964 - The Beatles perform two sold out shows to 30,000 screaming fans.
  • 1973 - The Jackson Five perform.
  • 1982 -The fair expands from 10 days to 12 days. 
  • 1989 -New Kids on the Block sets a Grandstand attendance record with 18,509 fans in the crowd.  
  • 1997 - The Sheep Barn, now named the Blue Ribbon Pavilion, is reconstructed into a fully enclosed, modern livestock exhibition space.       
  • 2001 - An $8 million renovation of the West Pavilion (Cattle Barn) begins. 
  • 2003 - An $8 million renovation of the East Pavilion begins and the building is renamed the Champions Pavilion.
  • 2004 -The 4-H Education Complex receives a $7.5 million upgrade, including the reopening of Centennial Hall (formerly the Boys’ Dormitory).
  • 2005 - A 3,400 square-foot, 1800s-style pin-framed barn is constructed in the Pioneer Village, then dedicated as the (Mauri) Williamson Barn in 2010.  Also, the DNR FishIN’ Pond debuts.
  • 2006 -The Indiana State Fair celebrates its 150th year!
  • 2007 -The Indiana State Fair becomes the first state fair in the nation to eliminate trans-fat cooking oil.  It’s also the year we began our “Year of” campaigns highlighting one Indiana commodity.
  • 2008 - The Indiana State Fair Covered Bridge is erected on the Fairgrounds’ west end.
  • 2009 - The Indiana State Fair expands from 12 days to 17 days, covering three weekends, and the Normandy Barn moves from 38th Street to the fairgrounds’ north side.
  • 2010 -The Boy Scout Legacy Bridge is erected on the fairgrounds’ east side.
  • 2012 - Construction begins on the renovation of the Fairgrounds Coliseum.
  • 2013 - The Grand Opening of the Youth Arena, a $10 million companion facility to the Coliseum, takes place. Also, the Glass Barn, a 4,500 square foot glass-paneled barn designed to educate visitors on how farming works and how food is produced, debuts on the Fairgrounds’ north side.
  • 2014 - The Fairgrounds Coliseum reopens after a $53 million renovation.