Indiana State Fairgrounds and Event Center Collection
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The State Fair was created in 1851 when the Indiana General Assembly passed “An act to encourage agriculture” which included a new board...the State Board of Agriculture. One of the first things the Board did was work to create the first Indiana State Fair. This year, the Indiana State Fair Commission is celebrating the 163rd Fair. Bad math, you say? No. Three wars (Civil War, Spanish-American, WW II) have canceled fairs.
The first fair in 1852 was held in what is now Military Park in downtown Indianapolis. Indiana was the 6th state to begin holding state agricultural fairs. The first fair was a resounding success. Other Indiana cities and towns housed the Fair through the years. (In order) Indianapolis (Military Park), Lafayette, Madison, Indianapolis (Military Park), New Albany, Indianapolis (Camp Morton), Fort Wayne, Terre Haute, then Indianapolis (Camp Morton) until 1892. In 1892, the Fair began at its current site which was quite rural in 1892.
Agricultural products were the most important thing (value-wise) that Indiana made in the 19th century. The entire economy revolved around farming or products that originated on the farm or making things to improve agriculture. Most of the population lived in rural areas or on farms, until about 1925. Having a State Fair gave farmers a way to come together, exchange new ideas for improving yields, and see the latest ideas in farming techniques and show their best products. Over 150 years later, the Fair still serves this purpose. Agriculture, with its many products, though not as central to the economy as it once was, is still one of Indiana’s most important businesses and adds millions to our economy. The Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center annually hosts more than 400 meetings, shows, sports and agricultural events, including the Indiana State Fair.