The first Indiana State Fair was held in 1852, with the fairgrounds opening 30 years later. The historic brick swine barn was constructed in 1923, hosting generations of eager 4-H’ers and hoisting countless purple banners for champion porkers for almost a century. Most of the building has been demolished, with the exception of the ornate, hand-carved brick façade announcing SWINE.
MUD BATHS AND MAKEOVERS.
The old swine barn is the last signature livestock building to be turned into a multiuse facility—a nearly 30-year restoration effort, explains Cynthia Hoye, executive director of the Indiana State Fair Commission, noting other enhancements are happening across the 250-acre campus. Previous renovations include the Indiana Farmers Coliseum and the Blue Ribbon Pavilion.
THE BRICK HOUSE.
Local engineering firm Schmidt Associates took on the project, which came with multiple safety issues and other problems to solve. “Schmidt really was very creative in designing a transformational structure at the corner of 38th and Fall Creek,” says Hoye, adding that the enclosed, four-season, climate-controlled space is the epitome of multipurpose, laid out to support livestock shows, all types of exhibits, and even athletic events.
Each year, 2,500 4-H exhibitors representing all 92 Indiana counties showcase pigs during the fair, so the new building is first and foremost an exceptional livestock facility. Courtney Stierwalt, 4-H youth development extension specialist in animal science, believes the new facility has been thoughtfully designed, honoring the past while looking toward the future. “It takes everything into consideration,” she says. “That includes the exhibitors’ experience, the presentation, and even … animal husbandry, as well as biosecurity, which is very much a priority for our 4-H’ers and the animals.”
Agricultural education is infused throughout the fairgrounds, during the fair through programming and permanent exhibits, and throughout the year via field trip opportunities and virtual learning. “An underlying, foundational piece of who we are … is our continual efforts to tell the story of agriculture and food,” says Hoye. The Fall Creek Pavilion offers permanent educational elements showcasing farmers, technology, and animal care.
BRINGIN’ HOME THE BACON.
Indiana is the fifth largest pork producer in the nation, so the industry makes a significant economic impact on our state. Greenfield pig farmer and president of the National Pork Board Heather Hill and her family farm will be highlighted throughout the campus at this year’s fair in an effort to help visitors connect their dinner with farmers.
A TWIST IN THE TAIL.
The shiny new Pavilion also contains storage facilities, the public safety center, and work space for almost half of the 90 full-time staff members on the Indiana State Fairgrounds & Event Center campus. Extra notable: It also pulls duty as a 200-meter indoor track-and-field arena.
DON’T PULL A HAM STRING.
Although the ribbon-cutting isn’t until July 20, the new space has already been awarded the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Division II competition for 2025. “Having an indoor track is a game changer for Indy. It’ll allow us to target USA Track & Field, NCAA, and amateur events,” says Melissa Thompson, vice president of bids and external affairs at Indiana Sports Corp, a nonprofit hosting national and international sporting events.
THE PIGGY BANK.
Hoye emphasizes the economic benefits of the $50 million swine barn renovation far outweigh even the cost. In a 2017 economic impact statement, the fairgrounds are shown to have a $200 million direct effect on the city and state with more than 1,100 jobs. “This is just going to add to those numbers,” she states.
ARRIVING IN DROVES.
More than 800,000 Hoosiers visit the Indiana State Fair. During the other 11 months, the gates open to 2 million-plus guests enjoying 400 or so worthy, albeit lower profile, draws. Those include concerts, sporting events, and consumer shows, as well as a campground and the Indiana standardbred horse training facility.
HI ON THE HOG.
“Finding creative uses of our property allows us to contribute to that [economic] impact and continue to invest in our community,” says Hoye. Award-winning distillery Hi & Mighty, which partnered with the fairgrounds in 2021 to make the Southwest Pavilion its home, is a great example of how the Indiana State Fair Commission is maximizing its footprint and expanding its reach.