The atmosphere at the State Fair was an interesting mix of conflicting emotions at a place normally known for having fun Monday following the stage collapse tragedy.
On the one hand, we found lots of people wanting to get a glimpse of the wreckage, not to gawk but to try to make sense of what had happened. You could tell that colored the rest of the time people spent at the fair, even as they tried to enjoy what the fair has to offer. They couldn’t help but look at the collapsed steel, pointing to the spot where calamity struck, many taking photos and others just quietly contemplating.
“It made me very emotional for the entire weekend and I wasn’t even here,” Tammie Gadberry said.
She’s a Ball State Student working as a Fair Ambassador. She’d left the Fairgrounds Saturday afternoon, but she has friends who attended the concert. She said they are struggling with the images of the night still playing in their heads.
Amy Castillo came out to be around her fellow Hoosiers.
“It’s just a powerful, devastating thing and so I had to be here to feel a part of all the Hoosiers and celebrate it as somber as that may sound,” Castillo said.
While the clouds of the disaster still hang in the air, many we talked to felt strongly that they had to come out, almost to take a stand.
“I think the people that are coming out just love the State Fair and love to come out and get some good food and almost pay tribute to those who lost their lives as well,” Kyle Ward said.
He’s also a Ball State Student Ambassador and he said the sadness was evident just walking around.
That’s also true in the Livestock Pavilion, where lots of young people didn’t get to show their animals Sunday because the Fair shut down.
“It took the wind out of your sail,” Bill Judy said.
He said he feels bad for the scores of kids who’d spent their last year raising livestock, prepping for the show, canceled for the first time in more than 50 years.
“Since the war, since 1943 is the last time they didn’t have a junior dairy show here. Kids worked all year on it and they put a lot of money and time and everything into it and they just went home. They couldn’t, wouldn’t let us show.”
As the crowds returned and families took advantage of the food and fun, children too young to understand what had happened, seemed to help the adults put things into perspective. You could see parents smiling as they watched their children laughing, celebrating and playing, reminding us all why we go to the state fair.
By the way, we talked with one fair employee who declined to go on camera, she told me that she feels today was an important momentum builder and a good sign that attendance will bounce back.