INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Fair is canceled for 2020. The Indiana State Fair Commission and the Indiana State Fair Board made the announcement Thursday afternoon.
They said there will be a modified 4-H livestock show held on the State Fairgrounds in August.
The Indiana State Fair Commission says the difficult decision was driven by the impact of COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, key elements including vendors and partners of the Fair began falling off, and so we pivoted and found a way to still serve our communities,” Brad Chambers, Indiana State Fair commission chairman, said.
“Safety is our number one priority. We’ve spent months working through options that would allow us to host the Fair,” Cindy Hoye, executive director of the Indiana State Fair Commission, said. “Agriculture and youth are the foundation of our mission and the heartbeat of the Indiana State Fair, so we are determined and proud to honor our 4-H members with a version of that State Fair experience that allows Indiana’s youth to be recognized for their dedication and hard work.”
Xavier Ferris has been showing animals at 4-H competitions since he was 4-years-old. This will be his last year to bring his animals in this modified showcase.
“Their two animal limit per exhibit really makes it hard for people that show more than one species like we do,” Ferris said. “It changes our daily routine a bit because we don’t want to get them ready as early.”
Gov. Holcomb released the following statement about the cancellation of the fair: “The Indiana State Fair is an incredible annual tradition that I and thousands of Hoosiers look forward to every year. While I’ll miss celebrating new memories with all the great food, animals, and exhibits, I support the decision to prioritize safety and hold a modified 4-H Livestock Show as we continue to slow spread of COVID-19.”
In 2019, nearly 879,000 people attended the Indiana State Fair.
For vendors like Jim and Georgia Stone, the fair is a source of income they look forward to during the year. They have three food trailers, and they typically bring one to the fair. To make money during this time, they have set up their Italian sausage and Philly cheesesteak stand along US 36 in Avon near Avon Middle School. It is operational on weekends.
“People have literally stopped because they can smell the food. They are ready for this fair food,” Jim said. “‘We totally 100% appreciate everything everybody’s done.”
“Is it going to replace the loss? No, it won’t, but we have to move forward,” Georgia said.
The Beef Cattle Association can bring in $80,000 to $100,000 during the Indiana State Fair. They sell Hoosier ribeye steaks to support their staff, youth programs, and lobbying to make beef production more sustainable in Indiana. Luckily, board members say their leadership established a “rainy day” fund just in case something catastrophic were to happen. The pandemic fits that category.
“I don’t envy the individuals that had to make that decision,” Beef Cattle Association board member Joe Horstman said while talking about fair officials. “I commend the commission and the directors. Not everyone is going to agree with their decision, but those people are leaders, and those leaders had to make a tough decision, so I thank them for that service.”
This is not the first time the Indiana State Fair was canceled. During the Civil War and WWII, the fairgrounds were used to support the war effort.
For more information on the 4-H livestock show, 4-H projects, and an updated FAQ resource, click here.