Storms closed the state fair twice, but financial outlook is sunny

Behind the Midway, the funnel cakes and turkey legs, the pigs and horses, the rodeo and free concerts of the Indiana State Fair, there are meetings, math and lots of planning.

The Indiana State Fair Advisory Committee met Wednesday at the Indiana Statehouse to recap the 2023 fair and year-round fairground events and to discuss plans for 2024.

The 2023 Indiana State Fair set a revenue record with $14.286 million earned—almost $1 million more than last year. It boasted an attendance of 840,414 people.

Food and beverage revenue came to $2.571 million, and sponsorship revenue added up to more than $2.5 million.

One significant change to the fair this year was a new safety policy. No minors (anyone under 18) were allowed entry after 6 p.m. without a guardian unless they were showing livestock or participating in fair events.

“First and foremost, we had a safe and wonderful guest experience at this year’s fair. Every year, we have our safety team introducing new measures based on what’s going on in the world and what we need to do to execute the state’s largest event,” said Anna Whelchel, vice president, chief marketing and sales officer.

“We implemented two new major safety measures this year, the first being our minor policy, as a major operational shift for the state fair as well as for our customer, to educate them and understand it. It was a very large success. We saw a significant decrease in incidents on the property during the state fair this year due to that. So we were very, very proud of that minor policy implementation, and we will be maintaining that into the future.”

Safety and attendance also faced some challenges due to Indiana’s weather, including two closures due to storms, one on opening day.

During the fair, there were three days of 90-plus degree heat and five days of rain, three on Saturdays, which is the busiest day of the week.

Sen. Jean Leising R-Oldenburg, asked about the biggest challenges moving forward and what the legislature can do to help.

“Honestly, I think the thing that we need most from this body, from this state, is just the continued support with a 200-acre campus and the number of buildings that we have and the infrastructure that we have in place. Some of it’s aging,” said Ray Allison, vice president, chief development and strategy officer. “It’s just that continued support to be able to maintain and improve the facilities so that we can continue to deliver what is the best state fair in the country and support 400-plus events on the campus throughout the year.

“Our last economic impact study, we provide about $200 million in annual direct economic impact of the state of Indiana, and we’re only able to do that because of the facilities that we have and the work that we’re able to do throughout the year.”

Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, said she is looking forward to 2024.

“I’m really excited about your 2024 theme and your partnership with Newfields,” said Breaux. “I think we’re very fortunate in Indiana to have Newfields as one of the top-notch art museums and to somehow figure out a way to bring art to a state fair. I think that will be pretty exciting to see.”

The 2024 theme will be “The Art & Nature of Fun” presented by Newfields and promising “down-home artistry. Downright fun,” as the Indiana State Fair website says.

Also in time for 2024, an ADA access tunnel is being built from the Infield to the new Indiana Farm Bureau Fall Creek Pavilion, which will also feature a new indoor track.

The 167th Indiana State Fair takes place Aug. 2-18, 2024.

This story is by Kyra Howard, a reporter for, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.