INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The 2016 Indiana State Fair finished strong, but some vendors would like to see concerts at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum return amid low attendance numbers.
Attendance was down more than 19 percent from last year, which was the fifth-largest attended fair in history. Organizers said 731,543 people attended the 2016 Indiana State Fair. However, great weather Sunday propelled the fair to a single day attendance record with 83,148 fair-goers going through the gates on the final day.
Weather certainly affected attendance this year, with the average heat index topping 87 degrees. Fair-goers also had to put up with rainy conditions; nine days of precipitation brought four inches of rain to the fairgrounds.
“The mission of the Indiana State Fair is to promote agriculture and connect farmers with consumers, and this Fair we got a glimpse of what a farmer can deal with during a season with less than favorable weather,” said Cindy Hoye, executive director, Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center. “The challenges this year showed how resilient this team can be at still providing a great Fair for those that did come out, even in the heat and rain.”
Some vendors tell us that's not the entire story.
Chris McCloud of Wooden Signs by Chris believes the lack of concerts at the Coliseum was another factor.
This was the first summer the Fair discontinued concerts in that building. There were 17 shows at the free stage, but McCloud said they weren't the kind of acts that draw big crowds.
“I think the weather was the main factor, but I think maybe the lack of concerts, or tier 1 entertainers may influenced the attendance. I’m pretty sure it does.”
Ty Hampe of Royal Spa was trying to get that message across last week.
“Without any concerts at the Indiana State Fair, we all suffer," he told us. "I mean there’s some things going on that people come to see, but the shows were big here and they need to bring them back.”
We asked State Fair Commission spokeswoman Lesley Gordon if the Coliseum was indeed a factor in low attendance this year. She didn't believe it could have been.
“When you look at some of those past numbers and the acts in there, there wasn’t anything that said that that was a contributing factor," explained Gordon. "We really saw weather played a huge impact this year.”
Still, would the Fair ever bring concerts back to the Coliseum? Gordon said there hadn't been any talks about it yet.
To close out the fair, the Indiana State Fair Foundation celebrated the completion of the Coliseum Campaign: Making Memories by raising more than $10 million toward the $63 million renovation of the Indiana Farmers Coliseum and addition of the Pop Weaver Pavilion and Cheri Daniels Youth Arena.