INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Fair is officially underway, and this year’s event comes with a few new rules.
For many guests, the state fair is an annual tradition. For others, it’s a brand new adventure.
“I like it,” said Laylee Waugh, who won first place showing her llama at her first Indiana State Fair this year. “It’s really cool and a lot bigger than the county fair — like a lot bigger.”
About 850,000 attend the state fair every year, so precautions are taken to ensure patrons’ safety.
“We are constantly reviewing our safety plan for our guests,” said Anna Whelchel, who works as the Indiana State Fair chief marketing and sales officer. “We watch what’s happening in the world, we watch what’s happening in the city, what’s happening in the state, and we’re constantly updating that plan.”
Guests may recognize the metal detectors at the gates as they enter, but there are also new bag restrictions in place this year.
Hard-sided coolers, messenger bags, camera bags and other bags larger than 9 x 10 x 12 will not be permitted on fairgrounds. Diaper bags and clutches, however, are allowed.
The biggest change to the fair rules pertains to minors.
“Starting at 6 p.m. every day at the state fair, all 18 days, a minor cannot get into the fair without their parent, chaperone or guardian,” Whelchel said.
Last year, police ejected a man with a disassembled rifle in his backpack. They also took a backpack containing three guns and ammo away from a teen outside the venue’s gates.
New safety policies and time restrictions aim to prevent similar incidents.
“This day and age, I think they need to do something,” said Angela Burleson, a fair visitor. “I mean, I could see how the kids might not be too happy about it, but I can see how the older folks who want to come out and not be scared or whatever would like it.”
Wherever you roam, you will find state police in every direction. More than 100 troopers help provide security over the course of 4 weeks.
“I totally feel safe,” Burleson said. “Not a problem at all. Never thought two things about it.”
Another major safety focus at the state fair this weekend is the heat.
“We want to remind guests you can bring in a sealed water bottle,” Whelchel said. “You can also bring in an empty water bottle and use our refill stations that we have.”
There are several refill stations throughout the fairgrounds, and some visitors said those watering holes are lifesavers.
“I wouldn’t come if they didn’t exist,” Burleson laughed. “I wouldn’t come here. Thought I was going to fall out just coming from the parking lot. So glad we have those.”
There are also buses around the fairgrounds that are used as mobile cooling stations. The state fair additionally includes around a million square feet of indoor options as well.
“Visit all the inside areas,” suggested fair visitor Adrenia Waugh. “They all have air conditioning. So, go in and see all the different exhibits and different animals.”
The state fair also added several portable fans and air conditioning units outdoors to help keep guests cool.