INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana State Fair kicked off its 17-day run with its usual confections and hearty treats as well as alcoholic drinks for the first time in nearly 70 years.
Friday's start of the fair also marks the return of paid concerts in the fairgrounds' newly renovated coliseum after those concerts were suspended following the deadly 2011 stage collapse.
This year's fair runs through Aug. 17.
Fair opens beer, wine exhibition
A new state law that took effect in July opened the door to beer and wine sales at the fair for the first time since 1946, the year before lawmakers banned alcohol sales at the event.
Beer and wine is only being sold, and can only be consumed, inside the fairgrounds' Grand Hall in an exhibition space featuring some of Indiana's craft beer and wine makers.
The first person to sample alcohol under the new law was 67-year-old Ed Swafford of Liberty, Indiana. He tried a Bavarian-style ale during the fair's opening day Friday.
Swafford says he wanted to be first for the novelty of it.
Fair officials say visitors will be limited to three beers or three glasses of wine apiece. They also can sample products as long as they don't have more than 36 ounces of beer or 15 ounces of wine.
Coliseum gets a $53M facelift
Fairgoers had a chance to check out the Coliseum after it received a $53 million facelift. The facility has 7,000 seats, modern amenities, a new scoreboard and great acoustics.
The state fair even dubbed this year The Year of the Coliseum.
The Coliseum was originally constructed in 1939 and has a rich history. There is a section of 96 chairs that have been refurbished and were there when the building first opened.
From those seats, people have seen the heights and the horrors. The horror came Halloween night, during a Holiday On Ice show in 1963. Propane gas leaked from a rusting tank and came in contact with an electric popcorn machine. Seventy-four people were killed and 400 people were injured.
The heights came when the Beatles came calling in September 1964. The Indiana Pacers also played at the Coliseum and won ABA championships in 1970, 1972 and 1973.
"John F. Kennedy made a speech here which is a historic wonderful photograph. Governor Mitch Daniels was inaugurated here. Some of the finest horse shows that have showcased have been in here," fair executive director Cindy Hoye said.
The facility will be the new home of the Indy Fuel hockey team and will host 13 Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis basketball games.
The immediate goal was to have 150 to 200 events a year at the Coliseum.
Ways to get to the fair
A trip to the fair can go a lot smoother with a little planning. The fair has several different options when it comes to ways to get to the fair and places to park.
For $13 or less, attendees can hop on the fair train. That price covers a roundtrip journey between the Fishers Train Depot and the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The first pickup in Fishers is 8:45 a.m. and the last departure from the fair is 10:15 p.m.
You can also save money by taking advantage of the Pedal and Park program. Fairgoers can save a dollar off fair admission when they ride a bike to the fair. There are secured bike racks available near the Monon Trail and 38th Street. Enter through Gate 18 off the Monon.
It will cost $5 to park in one of the lots in or around the fairgrounds, but there is a way to get to the fair for free.
The fair’s Park and Ride program picks up fairgoers at Glendale Mall at no cost.
"Park in their lot on the east side, so it's actually behind the mall on rural street and you'll see the pickup for the state fair shuttle. It's a free shuttle that operates every 20 minutes from 10 in the morning until 11 at night and you get right into the fairgrounds," fair spokesman Andy Klotz said.
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