Indiana State Fair

The Indiana State Fair is held every summer in Indianapolis, Indiana. More than seven-hundred-thousand people attended this year. I'm Doug Johnson. And I'm Bob Doughty. The Indiana State Fair is our report today on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.

Almost all states in America have a state fair. They take place in August, September or October each year. They last for one, two or three weeks. The Indiana State Fair is one of the largest and oldest state fairs in the United States.

People from all over Indiana and from many other states and countries attended the fair last month. They came to see the animals, rodeos, exhibits and contests. They came to hear concerts and to take part in rides and other events.

Like other state fairs, the Indiana State Fair is designed to teach young people and the general public about agriculture. It provides a way for the farming community to show its skills. People of all ages compete in animal production, food preparation, arts and crafts and photography.

The Indiana State Fair has a long and rich history. Over the years, it has been the center of major events involving livestock, agriculture, sports and entertainment. It has grown and changed with the passage of time. It is still one of Indiana's most celebrated events.

Visitors can do many things at an American state fair. They can watch the judging of the best cows, pigs and other animals. They can see sheep getting their wool cut and they can learn how that wool is made into clothing. They can watch cows giving birth. They can see animals racing. They can watch llamas jumping like great Olympic athletes. Many people learn about animals they would never see except at the fair.

Visitors can look at new home products or farm equipment. They can see products made by people who live on farms. They can even see the world's largest watermelon or the tallest sunflower plant.

Children and adults at the fair can play new computer games or attempt more traditional games of skill. They can listen to people play and sing all kinds of music. They can take rides that go very fast or travel high above the fair grounds. Or they can just walk around the fair and watch other people.


Agricultural fairs help Americans remember their nation's history. Experts say such fairs are important because people need to remember that they are connected to the Earth and its products. They say people need to remember that they depend on animals for many things.

Most fairs have competitions for the best farm animals. People whose animals win prizes can sell the animals for thousands of dollars. Young winners sometimes use the money to go to college.

Many young people whose animals compete at state and county fairs belong to groups called Four-H Clubs of America. The term Four-H means head, heart, hands and health. Four-H offers the largest unofficial education program in the United States. Many young people complete projects like raising and caring for a horse, cow or other animal.

Food is as important as animals at state fairs. Many people take part in competitions to prepare the best foods. Visitors to the fair should arrive hungry because there are many good things to eat.

The Indiana State Fair began in Eighteen-Fifty-Two. The goals were to share ideas, educate and present Indiana's best products. The cost of a single ticket to enter the fair was twenty cents. During the early Nineteen-Thirties, officials of the fair ruled that people could attend by paying something other than money. For example, farmers brought bags of grain and other projects in exchange for a ticket.

Years ago, American political candidates campaigned at state fairs. They gave speeches and tried to meet as many people as possible. Even American presidents attended. In Nineteen-Nineteen, President Woodrow Wilson gave a speech at the Indiana State Fair. The day was known as "Big Thursday." Forty-thousand people attended.

Some of America's most famous entertainers have performed at the Indiana State Fair. For example, the Beatles played two shows in Nineteen-Sixty-Four. The country music group, Alabama, Garth Brooks and The Jackson Five all performed there. So did Bruce Springsteen.

This year, there was an event to see who could look and sound the most like Elvis Presley. Competitors dressed, wore their hair and sang like Elvis. The person considered the best Elvis impersonator won the contest.

Visitors heard performances of American rap music, country music, new bands and older groups popular long ago. They heard religious gospel music groups. They also heard music performers from around the world. For example, they heard drummers from west Africa. They heard a celebration of Hispanic music.

A musical group from Ecuador, called Inkapirka, performed their mix of smooth melodies and cultural rhythms with a Latin influence. Here they perform a song called "The Leaves of Fall".


There were many activities for families at the Indiana State Fair. One of them was called "Little Hands on the Farm." It gave children a chance to learn what it is like to live and work on a real farm. In another activity, adults, children and their teddy bear toy animals took part in an event designed to help children plan a tea party.

Other special events at the Indiana State Fair included the Miniature White House. People waited in lines for hours under the hot sun to see the very small copy of the president's house in Washington, D.C. Visitors saw small versions of each room of the famous house. They included the Lincoln Bedroom, the Oval Office and the State Dining Room. All the rooms show the exact furniture, wall color and rugs presently used in the White House.

Two popular contests at the Indiana State Fair involved insects. One was the racing cockroaches. People watched as large cockroaches from Madagascar raced against each other on a small racetrack. Tom Turpin was the director of this event. He says he uses insects in experiments to get young people interested in learning more about the creatures.

Crowds also enjoyed watching the cricket-spitting contest. Believe it or not, people in the contest spit real crickets. However, the insects were not alive.

This year, the Indiana State Fair brought together people from different cultures as part of an English as a Second Language class. Nine students from ten countries took part. The class was designed to help the students improve their English skills and learn about Indiana culture. The class members were from countries including Russia, Vietnam, Sudan and Thailand.

Jacob Rooksby developed the idea to take the foreign students to the fair. He works with the J. Everett Light Center in Indianapolis. He created exercises and questions for the students to answer.

Mr. Rooksby says this program permits the students to have a personal experience with the fair. He says it also helps them improve their ability to speak English.

At the end of the fair, a ceremony honored hundreds of former soldiers from Indiana. Military aircraft flew over the fair to complete the ceremony. And another traditional event was held. A young woman was named as queen to represent the Indiana State Fair.

There was plenty of history and tradition at the Indiana State Fair this summer. Yet for thousands of visitors, the fun and learning at the fair never grows old.

This program was written by Cynthia Kirk. It was produced by Paul Thompson. I'm Bob Doughty. And I'm Doug Johnson. Join us again next week for another program about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.