Grand Prizes and Goldfish: Employees Share Favorite Indiana State Fair Memories

ISFOverviewTaking a prize-winning pig to Indianapolis. Milkshakes at the Dairy Bar. Grandpa’s eyes lighting up over historic tractors in Pioneer Village. Winning a goldfish. The memories came flooding back for Dow AgroSciences employees when they were asked about their favorite Indiana State Fair moments. In a year when the State of Indiana celebrates its 200th birthday, our employees shared walks down their own memory lanes related to this event which illuminates our state’s agricultural heritage.

James Parks, Global Variety Development Process Leader

I was in 4-H and showed hogs at the local county fair. When I was about 11, I had a pig that was underweight for our county fair in July so the judge recommended I take it to the State Fair about 3 weeks later. So my dad and I loaded up the pig in the pickup and headed off to Indianapolis. I was really excited about that. Shortly after we arrived at the Swine Barn that morning, about 10 am, we checked in the pig and he was weighed on the official scales. He weighed 231 pounds which was one pound over the weight limit at that time and therefore could not be shown. I was devastated. But there were a couple of other kids who also had pigs slightly overweight so the official announced that they would weigh the pigs again at 5 pm that day. So my dad and I walked the pig around the swine barn all day in hopes of reducing his weight. We then weighed in again at 5 pm and his weight registered at 227 pounds. Hooray! I was able to show my pig at the fair.

Gerald Powell, Global Leader, Create Product Success

“Open Position” at State Fair was the heading on the flyer on the bulletin board at Purdue. I called and scored an interview which I was not expecting since I was a freshman and upperclassmen were preferred. I proudly and confidently said YES on the spot at the end of the interview without asking questions my parents considered wise like: where to stay, being paid, safe, etc.PowellISFphoto

My job was to share being security & custodian of the world famous “White House in Miniature” which was a one-foot-to-one-inch scale – amazing replica of the real thing traveling the country in the early 1980’s. I slept in the fan conditioned attic of the Pioneer Our Land Pavilion and was paid $25 per day. I’m not sure the temp ever went below 85F in our “dorm”, but, they didn’t charge us to sleep there I explained to my parents. The salary almost covered my fair food which we all know is priceless (and calorie less). But, the perks of free train rides, admittance to not sold out grandstand events, exploring the fair for half days for 2.5 weeks, and meeting many of the interesting army of State Fair workers made it all more than worthwhile.

And YES, I’d let my kids do the same thing, but, I’d buy them a fan.

Linda Clark, Digital Specialist, Marketing Communications

My favorite Indiana State Fair memory was from about 5 years ago when I attended the Fair with my husband and two teenage daughters. When we arrived, I noticed on the event schedule that there was a live spay and neuter demonstration that was about to start AND our own vet was performing the surgery. I didn’t tell my girls what demo we were going to see as I knew they wouldn’t want to join me. Needless to say, they were quite shocked when the curtain was pulled back and they saw a German Shepherd under anesthesia ready to be operated on. We always talk about that memory each year we visit the Indiana State Fair 

Jennifer Ransberger, Tech III with Ag Chemistry & Urban Pest-Discovery Biology-Plant BiologyRansbergerISFphoto

My best memories of the Indiana State Fair involve spending time with my friends while trying to see everything from the animals to the decorated cakes. We enjoy participating in the different activities located inside each building and every visit requires a milkshake from the Dairy Bar! In recent years, I have been able to help with the Habitat AgBuild, which is fun, rewarding and a great way to meet new people.

Dr. Melissa M. Johnson:
Formulation Science and Technology Leader, Actives to Products (A2P) R&D


I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, but my parents grew up around Indianapolis. Most summers as a kid we would return to Indy for the State Fair. I fondly remember the activity planning discussions on the car ride and the logistical challenges of fitting in all the fair food…corn, tenderloin, elephant ear, dairy barn milkshake and fried cheese sticks….mmmm. Then we would arrive and set up shop near my uncle’s sheep pens. It was fascinating to see a different side of my corporate dad, wearing jeans, powdering sheep noses and trimming them up for the shows. My brother, dad and cousins all took part, except for me. I was secretly very nervous around the beasts, but of course stood around trying to look cool and like I fit in, especially when all the other suburban/city folk visitors walked by.

Duane Canfield, Global Marketing Excellence Leader

I have heard it said that there are 3 phases of life: you believe in Santa Claus, you don’t believe in Santa Claus and you are Santa Claus! And so goes my memories of the State Fair based on growing up in Indiana on a farm.
First, I was not old enough to be involved in 4-H, but as the youngest of five, I am sure I went every year including as a baby not yet one years old. At this point I remember the food, rides, the ducks going down the slide in the Poultry barn and the world’s biggest boar. We took a big cooler and stayed from about 7am-7 pm every year. Since we brought our own food and we had a big family, you had to pick your treat or treats wisely…an elephant ear, an ear of corn, a pineapple whip or a milk shake were my favorites.

The next phase of life involved when I was in 4-H, FFA, and gearing up for going to college for an Ag degree and planning on a career in Ag. During this time I had a more keen interest in going through all of the animal buildings, as well as “kicking the tires” on all of the new equipment and technology “on the other side of the track”. Still enjoyed the food and the world’s biggest boar! And I did have a woodworking exhibit of a nightstand get reserve grand champion in 1979 and still have that night stand in my house today!

And then the phase I am still in today…the annual day at the fair with my wife and two boys. We hit the food hard and strategically for there are more things we like then our bellies can hold. Always corn on the cob, always a milk shake, always slip a tater, and then all four of us pick a different meat. And We love to visit the world’s biggest boar as well as seeing the baby pigs. We don’t miss a thing as we make the rounds though all of the animal barns and the Science and Industry exhibits. We are planning our trip for this year now!

Stephanie Dawson, EH&S Administrative Specialist - EH&S Learning Coordinator, Indianapolis Ergonomic Focal Point

In the 1960’s my family had a food stand that was usually placed by the cattle barn. We sold foot long hot dogs with chili, cheese, onions, etc. Our chili sauce was home-made and became quite popular over the years. I remember the people who would come out of the cattle barn at 6:30 or 7 in the morning, and want foot long hotdogs for breakfast. To be ready for them, we would sleep inside the stand after closing up on Friday and Saturday nights. It was a lot of work but those memories make the State Fair a special place for me.

McCoyISFphotoJill McCoy, Administrative Specialist, Regulatory Sciences & Government Affairs

My earlier memories are attending the State Fair with my grandparents, parents and sister. Visiting the livestock barns and the machinery field so dad and grandpa could see the latest farm equipment. Riding the shuttle around the fairgrounds for 10 cents. Sitting in the infield eating a fried chicken picnic lunch packed by my grandma. Our lunch tradition eventually changed to eating at the pork producer’s tent. Special moments include driving dad’s 1951 Farmall H tractor around the fairgrounds in the tractor parade; sitting in the grandstands proudly watching dad drive the Farmall around the track on Farmer’s Day; chasing my runaway sow in the swine barn. Now it’s just dad and me making the annual State Fair trip. Dad has long retired from farming, but we still look at the farm equipment and go through the livestock barns. We visit Pioneer Village and look through the antique tractors. Dad will always have a story to share with me about his farming days. More recent memories are volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity Ag Build. Finally, my latest memories are from 2015, “Year of the Farmer” working in the DAS booth, interacting with happy fairgoers and farmers.

Amanda Atteberry, North America Digital Manager

In 2007, I was an intern with the Sign Shop Department at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. We made the signs and banners for fairground events and the Indiana State Fair. Most of our work was completed before the Indiana State Fair so I was able to volunteer and participate with other activities during the fair. My favorite memory happened on Kids Day that year. WFYI brought in Curious George for kids to come and meet. The WFYI employee that was supposed to wear the Curious George costume was sick that day. They were desperate to find someone to take their place so they turned to the interns. The Curious George costume was made for someone around 5’2” and I was the only intern that could fit in the costume so I naturally landed the job. Throughout the day, WFYI drove me around in a golf cart (in full costume) to scheduled appearances and Curious George met a lot of great kids and families. The hardest part was using gestures to communicate and wearing a full costume on a sunny, hot day. It was a great experience and I always think of this memory during the Indiana State Fair.

Karisa Reichard, Marketing Communications SpecialistReichardISFPhoto1


The day was hot, the children were bored and in need of a fun adventure. We had just moved to Indiana one week prior and were living in a hotel. My husband, our four children, our beloved dog and myself were residing in a 600 square foot hotel room. Needless to say, we needed to get out of the claustrophobic place. We heard that the Indiana State Fair was close to our hotel and were in need of making happy memories to begin our future here, in Indiana. Thankfully, it was $2 Tuesday! Just the right price for our large group. We sampled food and walked for miles and rode several frightening rides. All was going great until that fateful moment when my 4 year old spotted the fish bowls. “oh mama, can I please try to win a fish?” Everyone knows about these games, no one really wins, right? No one except for a 4 year old on a mission to win a fish. I grabbed a bucket of ping pong balls and stared at the dozens of magnified fish eyes staring at me through the glass bowls. I aimed and threw over and over again to no avail. I was secretly thankful to leave empty handed. I mean, after 5 hours at the fair all I could do was day dream of a cool shower and a movie rental. And then my youngest reached into the bucket and pulled out the last ping pong ball. She looked over the glass bowls and kept her eye on a fish. The man behind the counter knelt down to give her pointers on how to win. She looked at the ball and tossed it into the air. It bounced from the edge of one bowl to another and finally landed inside of a bowl. “Big Winner! The man yelled out!” My daughter jumped and screamed and waited, rather impatiently, for our newest member of the family, promptly named Herman. Herman the goldfish. And now, we had one more resident to add to our tiny hotel room (well, for the 2 days he lived, anyways).

We really do love the Indiana State Fair, but I stay clear of the fish game!