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Historical State Fair Moments


1851 - The Indiana General Assembly passed an act "to encourage agriculture," which also included the formation of a State Board of Agriculture. The primary goal of the Board was to create the first Indiana State Fair.

1852 - The first State Fair was held in what is now Military Park in downtown Indianapolis. Indiana became the sixth state to begin holding a state agricultural fair. William T. Dennis was the first superintendent of the Indiana State Fair and helped organize the Indiana State Board of Agriculture.


The State Fair has been held in Indianapolis for the majority of its existence, but other Indiana cities hosted the event in the 1800s. 1853 - Lafayette; 1854 - Madison; 1859 - New Albany; 1865 - Fort Wayne; 1867 - Terre Haute

The gates opened at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on East 38th Street for the first time on September 19, 1892.


1960 - The first National Junior Sheep Shearing Contest.


1852 - Top three premiums at the first Fair: J.T. Smith, Rush County, for his plans for a farmhouse; Benjamin Reynolds, White County, for his essay, "Best Method of Reclaiming and improving the Swamplands of Indiana;" Professor Byrem Lawrence, Montgomery County, for his essay, "Hill Lands."

Early Fairs awarded premiums or recommendations for best underwear, best false teeth, best artificial limbs, best coffin and best hearse.

1907 - Red was once the color of the first place ribbon and blue was the color for second place. Indiana changed to conform to other states' system of blue for first and red for second.

1938 - Richard Jordan, Henry County, entered his 16 ft. 1 in. cornstalk in the Tall Corn Contest, which reached the balcony of the Administration building.

1947 - The first Indiana State Fair High School Marching Band Contest.

1975 - The first Indiana State Fair Giant Hot Air Balloon Race was delayed twice due to weather causing only five of the 17 entries to lift off. Seventeen-year-old Denise Weiderkehr of St. Paul, Minnesota won by dropping a bag of Indiana corn within 146 feet of the hare balloon's mark.


1912 - The first year for 4-H Club work in Indiana. Zora Mayo Smith was appointed State 4-H Club leader.

1915 - Market hogs were offered as the first 4-H class.

1923 - A Corn Club Class was added.


1876 - The Sinker and Davis internal combustion engine made its debut and showed people how motorized machines enhanced agriculture and improved lifestyles.

1877 - Just two years after the invention of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell's invention was installed in two places in Camp Morton's Exposition Hall for viewing.

1928 - Radio entered the Fairgrounds when WKBF radio broadcasted a half-hour program twice a day during the Fair.

1939 - Television debuted with over 38,000 visitors who paid a dime to see the WLS display.

1946 - The longest radio broadcast took place with 83 artists scheduled to perform at this all-Hoosier radio show that lasted 2 ½ hours.

1955 - The first television broadcast occurred in the Radio Center, now known as the Communications Building, with WTTV-4.

1984 - The Fair received statewide network coverage for the first time.

1991 - Over 212 television and radio stations covered the Fair.


Numerous nationally-known entertainers have graced the stages of the Indiana State Fair. Some of these include: Captain Kangaroo, Johnny Cash, the Jackson 5, the Beatles, Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, Def Leppard, Rascal Flatts and Kanye West.

1964 - The Beatles performed two sold out shows to nearly 30,000 screaming fans on September 3.

1989 - New Kids on the Block set a Grandstand attendance record with 18,509 fans.

Famous Visitors

1919 - President Woodrow Wilson gave a speech to a crowd of 40,000 on a day known as "Big Thursday."

President George W. Bush, President Bill Clinton, President John F. Kennedy and President Franklin D. Roosevelt have all made appearances at the Fairgrounds.

1956 - Elvis Presley did one of his first TV interviews at the Communications Building shortly after recording "Heartbreak Hotel."

1957 - Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) boxed in the Communications Building as an amateur.