Tam and I bicycled down to the Indiana State Fair yesterday. The Monon Trail runs right by the fairground; back when it was still a railroad, the original FairTrains ran smack dab through Broad Ripple, one every 45 minutes
, and stopped just outside the midway. (I think nowadays
, they run down the other side of of the Fairgrounds and across Fall Creek Parkway, with a nifty pedestrian tunnel connection to the station).
Bicycling is pretty much the "A" ticket to the Fair, as secured parking (with actual attendants) is free and
you get a dollar off on admission. Doesn't work so well if you live in Fort Wayne or Evansville (etc.) but since we're already in town and not too far from the trail....
We walked around the entire fairgrounds, Tam taking tiny little baby steps in her "barefoot" shoes and me galumphing along at my usual too-fast rate whenever the crowds thinned and having to stop for her to catch up. (I hiked a lot growing up and really only have the one speed, a pace I once could keep up all day; Tam had not planned on the amount of hard-surface walking we ended up doing. In retrospect, we should'a caught a tractor-tram).
We saw quite a lot though we skipped all but one of the critters buildings, Family Arts, the Commercial Building and the Hook's Historic Drugstore.
...Which, by the by, was once one of the two "Better Babies" buildings
, back when the State Fair had baby-judging contests, side-by-side with the hog, chicken, sheep and cattle judging. Yes, that was when Indiana had eugenics laws
and compulsory sterilizations too, which I'd like to tell you were discarded with extreme prejudice during or after WW II but the damned things hung on 'til 1974
, long after Better Babies contests had faded away.
We did see the Cattle "Barn" (an imposing brick structure) while enjoying fine ribeye sandwiches. We strolled by the grandstands and commercial-food midway --
(there's a precursor to the pineapple stand, by oh, about 90 years).
Then we continued around past the harness-racing barns
(wooden, historic). Look close -- click to enbiggenate -- and you can just about read the "Quiet, horses sleeping" signs. Do they maybe work third shift?
Over the Boy Scout bridge:
It leads to the Clean Waters garden; from there, we walked through through the non-midway kiddie area where There Was No Heffalump!
Much disappointment in the spot where the pachyderms ought to be, though watching the patient Shetland ponies and their thrilled little riders, just out of frame to the right, kind of made up for the lack.
Onward into Possum Hollow, where old technology, old tools and old skills are found.
I bought some Indiana Maple Sugar candy (yum!) for me and a raccoon tail for Huck (he was intrigued but keeps looking for the rest. Sorry, pal, a whole real coonskin was too expensive for a toy) and we looked at threshing machines, tractors (love that car, too!),
traction engines both large
(up close! --Note he's got the automatic oilers filled, the [Indiana!] coal burning and about 60# steam pressure. That machine runs during the Fair, regularly and often, operating various machines doing actual work, from a sawmill to a corn shucker to a baler.)
and small (burning, I think, fuel oil, with extra carried in a little trailer and plumbed in along the hitch, and yes, it's belted to some small and infernal-looking machine I'd like to believe is a popcorn shucker, scaled to match both engine and crop),
working forges, Liar's Contestants, broom makers, bowl carvers (as we walked by, a fellow carving a heart-shaped one with a home-made adze formed from an old hammer, working just as quickly as you could describe it), tractors and dream cars
...And on to the Farm Bureau building, looking at newer farm technology on the way. IT'S NOT JUST ME, RIGHT? THAT THING HAS EYES!
From there to the Department of Natural Resources and their fine collection of leaping kid goats
(like giant kittens, but more mischievous), huge catfish and whimsical paddlefish:
Then off to the 4-H buildings for an air-conditioned stroll past dioramas,
bug collections, quilts,
leatherwork (that's a quiver) and some interestingly-related art, model rockets, more artwork
and the relief of finding the possibly largest and definitely least-used washrooms on the fairgrounds ('cos few folks ever get to the second floor -- where there is No Line! Hooray!). From there past the Midway (with a stop for Satay Babi, grilled marinated pork on a stick): MEAT-ONNA-STICK IS IN THERE SOMEWHERE
And at last to the Horticultural building, for A) a glass of chilled (Indiana) Red Gold tomato juice, best in the world:*
And B) honey-related items -- I had a cup of honey ice cream, a heavenly treat. One apiarist had even brought a small frame of bees -- Tam and I had to enjoin a teen-aged barbarian from tapping on the glass. (Did I egg him on? I'd touched it first, gently, to see how hot the bees were in there; they do run above ambient and of course the poor insects were trapped, lest the easily-frightened freak out.) Oh, C) a garden-gauge train, too.
That man who has
the "PLEASE stay off the GLASS" sign has a reason: he's the garden-gauge engineer.
After that long, slow walk (nearly five hours), we were both worn out, and made our way back to our bikes and to home.
We were even too tired to ride the Ferris Wheel before we left.
(Still to come: bonsai, an undodgeable Dodge truck, and a few other items)__________________________________________________* Someone is sure to remark on the price. It's for charity, okay? At the grocer's, Red Gold tomato juice is quite affordable ($1.65) by the #3 Cylinder can, which is a week's supply -- ask for it by name!