HICKS: Indiana State Fair offers fun kind of economic stimulus

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Mike Hicks

This weekend heralds the start of the Indiana State Fair. I will be there at least once, I hope twice. It seems my 10-year-old daughter was disappointed with her watermelon-seed-spitting performance last year and is vowing a comeback.

My advice for those of you volunteering at that booth: Wear safety glasses.

The State Fair is a great treat, but there’s a lot more to it than the food and fun. In 2008, when gas prices were nearing $4 a gallon and the economy had begun to slow, more than 859,000 folks visited the fair. According to our estimates, spending at the fair last year led to more than $63 million in total economic activity. While some of this would have no doubt been spent in Indiana on other activities, this is a very respectable impact.

There’s also an interesting twist on the State Fair and the economy.

There is mounting evidence that during a recession people tend to stay closer to home for entertainment and amusement. My center released a study this spring that found museums, zoos and other cultural venues saw significantly increased traffic during economic downturns. I’ve spoken with a number of museum directors who confirm that attendance is at record highs. Unfortunately, their revenue is not rising since most of these institutions subsidize tickets with endowments and grants.

This year, with the economy still suffering and gasoline more than a dollar less per gallon, we expect much higher attendance. As a bonus, the State Fair Commission extended the fair through another weekend. As a consequence of a longer fair, weaker economy and lower gasoline prices, we predict 1.6 million visitors. Interestingly, that is almost exactly the state population in 1852, the first year of the Indiana State Fair.

I also have to admit a special fondness for the Indiana State Fair. Though I was raised in the Washington, D.C., area, both my parents were born on Hoosier farms. Each summer, we made the pilgrimage back to Indiana.

As I visited the fair last year, for the first time in almost four decades I was magically carried back to a time when men wore fedoras. All the scents and sounds were there. For just a whisper of a moment, I clearly saw my grandpa holding my hand and patiently explaining the workings of a steam thresher and marveling through the crowd at a gigantic hog. All the while, my 6-year-old self was distracted by a second elephant ear my indulgent grandma sneaked past Mom. I am certain I left with a bellyache.

These things matter, too, even if we haven’t included them in our economic-impact models. So, go to the Indiana State Fair this year. Watch a show, see the hogs, and buy an elephant ear. That said, I have just one warning. If you wander into the Ball State Backyard and happen upon the watermelon-seed-spitting contest, stay well back from the line of fire.•


Hicks is director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at cber@bsu.edu.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. In reality, Lilly is maintaining profit by cutting costs such as Indiana/US citizen IT workers by a significant amount with their Tata Indian consulting connection, increasing Indian H1B's at Lillys Indiana locations significantly and offshoring to India high paying Indiana jobs to cut costs and increase profit at the expense of U.S. workers.

  2. I think perhaps there is legal precedence here in that the laws were intended for family farms, not pig processing plants on a huge scale. There has to be a way to squash this judges judgment and overrule her dumb judgement. Perhaps she should be required to live in one of those neighbors houses for a month next to the farm to see how she likes it. She is there to protect the people, not the corporations.

  3. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/03-111.htm Corporate farms are not farms, they are indeed factories on a huge scale. The amount of waste and unhealthy smells are environmentally unsafe. If they want to do this, they should be forced to buy a boundary around their farm at a premium price to the homeowners and landowners that have to eat, sleep, and live in a cesspool of pig smells. Imagine living in a house that smells like a restroom all the time. Does the state really believe they should take the side of these corporate farms and not protect Indiana citizens. Perhaps justifiable they should force all the management of the farms to live on the farm itself and not live probably far away from there. Would be interesting to investigate the housing locations of those working at and managing the corporate farms.

  4. downtown in the same area as O'malia's. 350 E New York. Not sure that another one could survive. I agree a Target is needed d'town. Downtown Philly even had a 3 story Kmart for its downtown residents.

  5. Indy-area residents... most of you have no idea how AMAZING Aurelio's is. South of Chicago was a cool pizza place... but it pales in comparison to the heavenly thin crust Aurelio's pizza. Their deep dish is pretty good too. My waistline is expanding just thinking about this!