Our Epic Indiana State Fair Visit

The 90-minute challenge was accepted ... and conquered.

The 90-minute challenge was accepted … and conquered.

The challenge: Explore the Indiana State Fair in 90 minutes or less.

Rules: Must gorge selves on $2 Tuesday State Fair food, pet baby cows, ogle piglets and look at multiple displays/attractions.

This was what faced us this year with our annual pilgrimage to the Indiana State Fair.

With Caitlyn heading out of town to care for The Frankfort House and our generally ri-donk-ulous schedules this summer, we had this much time to take in the sights, smells and tastes of the State Fair by the time we dealt with the traffic mess that is 38th Street. It probably didn’t help that it was $2 Tuesday, where fairgoers not only get in for $2, but all rides and many treats are just $2 (it’s happening again next Tuesday); and Phillip Phillips was also playing a show that night at the Fairgrounds.

Once we got into the fair, we made a beeline for the Red Barn Elephant Ear stand. Having never eaten an elephant ear before and lamenting for years about said injustice, we picked up a “mini mouse ear” for $2, which basically was a smaller version of the vendor’s staple product. It was scalding hot and topped with loads of cinnamon, but no time for cooling down — we only had 85 minutes left before buildings started shutting down for the night. Scarf it down, Caitlyn!

Little baby cows and pigs -- oh my goodness!

Little baby cows and pigs — oh my goodness!

Just across from the elephant ear stand was the entrance to the Cattle Barn, home to the calves available for petting. We tried entering through the side, but a worker stopped us and told us cows needed to walk through that entrance. Curses! This cost us an extra minute going to the front entrance, but we made it up sprint-hopping over the cow patties to get Caitlyn her handful of minutes with the babies.

Next, it was on to the deep-fried food stands. New this year was red velvet Oreos, but the line for that booth was crazy long and would have meant sacrificing another treat, or worse, skipping the cute little piglets. That wasn’t going to happen on my watch, so we went to the much-less crowded (and equally tasty) deep-fried brownie stand next door. I’ve tried plenty of deep-fried things at the fair over the years and this is the one that I’d probably put near the top of my list of must-dos. OK, no time to savor the artery-clogging deliciousness, we need to skip over to the Swine Barn.

Not for the lactose-intolerant ...

Not for the lactose-intolerant …

Oh my goodness, the piglets are getting a meal from their mommy! Sooooo cute! Do they have the pigs that vegetarian bacon comes from? They don’t? Well, time to move on then and grab some King’s Taters. For those unfamiliar with King’s Taters, they’re basically one (or two) potato turned into a never-ending spiral of potato chips that you can then top with garlic powder, salt and other toppings at the booth’s bar-top. Tasty – and also only $2 that day.

All this consumption is making us thirsty. Methinks it’s time for a trip to the Dairy Bar for a “shake” (to the novice, their shakes really are more the consistency of a Frosty at Wendy’s, but taste great nonetheless). Man, these lines go on forever and, what is that, $3 for a shake? Well, I guess we can deviate from the $2 Tuesday plan for a moment. I’ll pay $4 if everyone in front of me gets out of line.

Pretty gingerbread houses, cakes and more at the Home & Family Arts Building.

Pretty gingerbread houses, cakes and more at the Home & Family Arts Building.

After a long wait, we got our shake and inhaled it in front of the Home & Family Arts Building, which houses a dazzling display of jewelry, art, costumes, quilts and, my personal favorite, intricately decorated cakes in the basement. A quick stop to take in this year’ cheese sculpture nearby — one of the carvers said the team had been working on it for 140 hours by that point and more work was still needed! — and inside the historic Hook’s Drug Store and our time was up. Side note: I saw an honest-to-God banana inside the store. Take that, people who say you can’t get anything healthy(-ish) at the State Fair!

We found something healthy(ish) at The State Fair. Huzzah!

We found something healthy(ish) at The State Fair. Huzzah!

And like that, our trip to this year’s Indiana State Fair was over: brief, fast-paced and no time to take in the northern half of the Fairgrounds. I recommend going on a Saturday morning, when parking is ample, and that way, you’ll have enough time to mosey around the entire Fairgrounds, taking in all the animals, attractions and tastes.

Until next year, Indiana State Fair …

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