One of America’s greatest summer pastimes is spending a day at the county fair. The aroma of fried food mixed with the sweet smell of cotton candy is one of summer’s most savory scents. Tunes from the carnival rides dance across the fairgrounds, as their lights illuminate the sky at night. Children coo as the animals in the stables moo and bleat; teenagers grab a bite with friends. This family affair is one of La Porte’s biggest annual attractions.
This week, one of summer’s greatest pastimes is here. The La Porte County Fair is in full swing, celebrating its one hundred seventieth year.
It is the oldest fair in the state of Indiana, and since 1845, La Porte’s festival has attracted several thousand fairgoers. Over the past one hundred seventy years, the fair has brought people from all walks of life together to enjoy musical performances from well-known artists, fair food favorites, games, rides and much more.
“It is neat being a part of the oldest fair in Indiana. When you go to other fairs in the state and tell other people you’re from La Porte, it is easily recognized and impressive,” Pioneerland volunteer Karen Schultz said.
One of the fair’s focuses are 4-H projects constructed by local students. Some of the projects include cake baking, sewing, scrapbooking, photography and science projects. Other students raise animals such as cows, horses and rabbits, and show them in front of a judge.
While the children with posters, food, scrapbooks and clothes are off exploring the fair, there are 4-H volunteers that make their rounds in the 4-H building, to assure the projects are being taken care of and are not being mishandled.
One of these volunteers is Emi Koopman.
“For the past four years or so, I’ve been volunteering at the 4-H buildings during the fair. It is just my way of giving my time to the community. I love the creativity of the projects. Each one shows the children’s personality and their way of thinking,” Koopman said.
Another main attraction of the La Porte County Fair is Pioneerland, which consists of a log cabin, school house, general store, wash house, quilter’s cabin, artisan barn, blacksmith shop, outdoor kitchen, pioneer heritage garden, farm bureau cabin and an antique post and beam barn.
The village is accompanied by volunteers who depict pioneers in the early 1800s. There are checkers and stilts for children to play with. Fairgoers that walk through Pioneerland are exposed to what real life would be like in the 1800s.
“I have volunteered here since 1999, and have continued to do it for so long because I like working with people in the community. It is fun to have the chance to teach children what it was like to live as a pioneer,” Schultz said.
After a walk through Pioneerland, there are paths of food vendors upon food vendors, with treats ranging from elephant ears to corn on the cob, to smoothies.
Victoria Lipscomb and her family work at The Berry Patch, a food truck that sells smoothies, milkshakes, slushies and ice cream. They travel to different fairs during the summertime, but nothing is quite like the La Porte County Fair.
“The people here are so nice and sweet; everyone is just here to have fun. [I think La Porte’s fair is the oldest] because parents bring their children and they make it a family [affair]. It gets passed down through generations and kids love it,” Lipscomb said.
This week, there are activities for people of all ages. Tuesday, July 14, is Senior Citizen Day and Kankakee Valley REMC Day. Carnival rides are open from 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., and wristbands for unlimited rides may be purchased for $20.
One of Wednesday’s main attractions is the Figure 8 Demolition Derby at 7:00 p.m. in the Motor Sports Arena.
On Thursday, July 16 at 7:00 p.m., AWWL Big Time Wrestling will take place in the Grandstand Arena.
Starting at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, there will be 4-H livestock auction that will extend throughout the rest of the day. Saturday, July 18 will tie up the fair festivities with a magic show act from Matt Kalita, a visit from Ronald McDonald and a visit from the Detroit Circus.
For more information about the activities happening this week, visit lpfair.com.