The Hoosierist: Picking Favorites

Vegetable judges, exploding manhole covers, and the Harley nickname. Ask The Hoosierist.

Q: Who judges the vegetable competitions at the Indiana State Fair? Is anyone really qualified to pick a best zucchini?
Allan P., Fishers  
A: In the Hoosierist’s book, there’s no such thing as a “best” zucchini. Or even an acceptable one. Fortunately for people who believe such a metric exists, there’s a national pool of folks who judge vegetables at fair competitions. Indiana State Fair staff look over their resumes to make sure they have any necessary professional certifications—though that’s usually more of an issue for people who judge livestock rather than, say, broccoli. Last year, the Fair received almost 3,000 entries for its 93 vegetable classes and 70 fruit classes. If you’re thinking about entering your own specimens in this year’s Fair, registration closed July 30. Tough banana peppers.


Q: Why do manhole covers continue to explode downtown? Seems very dangerous.
Don L., Indianapolis  
A: In a one-square-mile network underneath the city, 72 miles of high-voltage cables; 315 hulking transformers; and a tangle of gas, sewer, and steam lines share space. That’s a lot of twitchy gear packed into a very small area. So the wonder, perhaps, isn’t that things blow up occasionally but that this steampunk netherworld hasn’t been used as a set for a Die Hard movie. To prevent further above-ground unpleasantness, Indianapolis Power and Light is installing locking manhole covers throughout the city center. The utility hopes to finish by the end of 2015. So the next time there’s a transformer overload or John McClane rolls a hand grenade into the lair of a gang of Eastern European mercenaries, we should be okay.


Q: Is it true that the Harley-Davidson nickname “hog” was invented in Indiana?
Christy S., Carmel  
A: The folks in Marion, Indiana, are so sure this moniker was coined in their town that they’ve created an event around it—the Hog Daze festival (August 14–16). Legend says it began in 1920, when the town hosted an international motorcycle race. The winner was a member of the Harley-Davidson racing team. A local farmer, for reasons unknown, handed the top driver a piglet, and the winner took a victory lap with the terrified animal tucked under his arm. Soon, Harley riders started taking victory laps with piglets at other races, prompting opposing teams to call them the Hog Boys. Thus the motorcycle company’s products gained their nickname—and Marion gained a reason to close down part of town once a year and set up lemon-shakeup stands.


This article appeared in the August 2015 issue.