August in Indiana means one thing: Time for the fair! Everyone from South Bend to Evansville has converged on the Circle City for the annual event steeped in more traditions and folk lore than granny’s biscuit recipe.
Sure, pretty much every state in the union has a state fair (I’m not sure about Alaska or Hawaii), but the Indiana State Fair is the stuff of legends. The world’s biggest hog. Deep-fried butter on a stick. The world’s most dangerous rodeo. And, of course, a million different ways to use corn.
Most years, we would be hitting this time of year with great debate over whether we really wanted to visit the fair or stay just as close as possible to the air conditioning. This year, however, we’re coming off the coolest summer ever recorded and even the hottest days so far have been a cake walk compared to, well, “I remember this one year, when it was so hot the corn started poppin’ right there in the exhibit hall.” What this means is that you’re less likely to have to worry about sweat stains on your sleeveless blouse and can wear clothes that look great while keeping you comfortable.
Now, the fair has already been open about a week as of this writing, but the hard-working folk in the PR department were kind enough to let us in a few days early so we could roam around, take a few pictures, and come up with some very cute and comfortable ideas for just what you want to wear to look cool and classy whether you’re on the midway, an exhibit hall, or wandering around with the cattle. Just follow along with Presley from LModelz; she’ll be your guide.
The covered bridge is one of the primary landmarks on the fairgrounds and if you can get there relatively early in the morning it makes for a great place to have a friend snap your picture (sorry, I do not promote selfies). Sleeveless is, of course, the name of the game for fair wear, and tank tops hold a long-honored place in fair fashion tradition. So, we could be more perfect than this all-American, I love Indiana tank from Lucky B boutique in Broad Ripple? Paired with the model’s own jean shorts and western boots (we know you have plenty of both), the look is perfect for the fair.
Okay, I feel obligated to issue a couple of warnings here. Even though the temperatures are not nearly as hot as we often experience, UV rays can still kill your skin, especially with the prolonged exposure of spending all day on the midway. Don’t forget to moisturize extremely well before you leave home and use a sun block that doesn’t skimp on the SPF.
Also, western-styled boots are really “hot” this season and we’ve included them for a couple of different looks in this article. Be aware that going to the fair is not the time to be breaking in a new pair of boots or most any other footwear. Going to the fair involves a tremendous amount of walking. If those boots don’t fit well and are not already broke a bit, chances are your enjoyment of your experience may be shortened.
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Another popular landmark at the fairgrounds is the big, red, round building right smack in the middle of the grounds that is home to the State Fair Gift Shop. We thought this would be a great place to show off this cute floral crop top and shorts, both from Lucky B. This midriff-baring look is just the right amount of sexy without being too much for a family-centered event. The shorts are nice and full, which gives added comfort should there be a slight breeze, or if one just can’t resist going back for a fourth bacon-glazed donut sandwich. Yes, they really do have those.
Over the years, I’ve found the grounds around the gift shop to be a wonderful place to just sit and watch, largely because it is a popular meeting place. You know how those fair trips go: Mom wants to look at the exhibits in the Home and Family Arts building, Dad wants to look at tractors, or animals, or something else that’s not in the Home and Family Arts building, one sibling wants to stay on the Midway while the other is camping out on the front row at the Free Stage waiting for a favorite band. The gift shop makes a wonderful place for everyone to gather when they’re done.
This year, however, the Indiana State Fair has a mobile app available for both iPhone and Android. One of the features I love about this app is that the map shows you exactly where you are on the grounds (assuming you have your GPS turned on). No more getting so incredibly lost that security has to come help you find your way out of the Blue Ribbon Barn (don’t laugh, I was dehydrated that day). The mobile app has a lot of other great information as well. Just, uhm, don’t do like I did the other day and leave your phone at home; it can’t help you much from there. You can download the Indiana State Fair app from iTunes or the Android Play Store.
Yes, the Indiana State Fair is so exciting that it may very well one to jump, and leap, and frolic, especially given that beer and wine are being sold on the fairgrounds this year. With nearly a week of the fair under our belts, I’ve not heard of any horrible alcohol-related tumbles off the ferris wheel or fatal encounters with livestock, so I will assume that new feature is going relatively well.
Something else that goes well with the fair is this black crocheted top from Lucky B paired with pink jeans from Zara. The top is cropped and the crochet work below the bust is very nicely done so it’s not likely to unravel as one goes leaping hither and yon from the cheese sculpture to the elephant ride. Pink jeans may well be a must if one is planning on going to the fair earlier in the day or if, like several people I know, one has allergies to even being on the same planet as dust or hay or animal hair. Why pink? Why not? Actually, as crazy as the fair can sometimes get, those pink jeans may be just the thing to help you stand out from the crowd, in a most positive way, of course.
[Note: no alcohol was consumed during any portion of the construction of this article, neither textual or photographic. What happens once I’m finished is between me and Johnny Walker.]
Over-sized tanks are extremely popular this summer and this one from Lucky B (which says “Hangout,” not “Hangover,” just to be clear) is a really good choice for fair wear. Here, Allyson paired it with a red bandeau just to make sure everything stays sufficiently modest. Bandeaus under tanks are not a bad idea anyway as it prevents the possibility of having those tacky bra straps showing. Again, pair this with some shorts and cowboy boots and you’ve got a look that will last you from sheep shearing to the ShenaniGuns Wild West Show. Tuck the shirt tail, don’t tuck the shirt tail, half tuck the shirt tail, all is good no matter which way one chooses to wear the top. Just, please, don’t use it as a napkin. Your parents taught you better than that.
I have to admit, I go rather nuts when it comes to fair time. I find so much inspiration, so many things to watch and see, that it keeps my imagination stoked pretty much year-round. While I’m too old to really enjoy the midway any more (when one needs medication just to watch the tilt-a-whirl, it’s time to stop), and too not-thin to gorge myself on the extremely unique food offerings, there is more than enough here to hold my interest over multiple trips. This year, there are several new elements (in addition to the Indiana Beer & Wine Exhibition) that are worth making the trip. Let’s see …
- Flippenout Extreme Trampoline Show
- Freestyle Madness BMX Stunt Show through Aug. 10
- Kachunga & the Alligator Aug. 13-17
- National Belgian Draft Horse Show Aug. 14-16
- The Great American Duck Race (four times daily)
- Angie’s List Gardens
Those are just a few choices from an extremely long list of entertainment that is all included with the price of fair admission. I have been to state fairs from North to South, East to West, and too many less-than-exciting places in between. What one gets at the Indiana State Fair really is something special.
This year’s fair theme is “Year of the Coliseum.” After a very long and very necessary makeover, the Coliseum is once again open for business and host to many wonderful concerts and events. While tickets to these events do generally cost extra, the renovation of this fantastic facility is well worth celebrating.
For those special fair events, Lila and Allyson chose this crochet top, shorts, and necklace ensemble from Lucky B. While cool enough to wear around the fair all day, this look is a little dressier, a little nicer, which is appropriate if one is staying for the night’s show in the Coliseum. I especially like the layered panels on the shorts. This is very stylish, very fashionable, and still well within the realm of practicality for a day out in the sunshine, cavorting with friends.
I know I’ve talked just as much about the fair itself as I have about the fashion, but I’ve done so for a reason. From the very first day of the fair I’ve heard people make disparaging remarks about the “low quality” of people attending the fair. I beg to vehemently disagree.
As we’ve walked around the fair grounds, I’ve seen people from United States Senators to immigrants from countries whose names I cannot pronounce. We watched Amish families gather around wood-working equipment, and modern farmers marveling over the latest technology-driven implements. Then, there are the small children grasping the hands of grandparents, eyes bright, smiles wide, building incredible memories to last a lifetime. We sat for several minutes one afternoon next to a hand washing station observing the very different ways family members assisted little ones in washing their hands; such a simple exercise provided incredible moments of cultural understanding.
The Indiana State Fair brings together people not merely from all corners of the state, but all corners of the world. Here in this incredible microcosm there is no need for peace talks, there are no borders one cannot cross; no one is being shelled or need fear for their life. No one is prohibited from attending because of their religious preference or because they come from the wrong ancestral tribe. While no place is ever perfect, for these 17 days we have a chance to demonstrate just how well we can all get along when we choose to put our differences aside and enjoy this life.
I firmly believe that fashion and style, looking good and dressing well, are just as important at the state fair as any affair of state. Dress to enjoy the day, the people, the food, the rides, and the exhibits, and make the most out of your fair experience, whether you visit one day or all 17. The Indiana State Fair is a wonderful place, an exciting event, and there’s absolutely no reason for you to not be there!
Photography: charles i. letbetter
See you at the fair!