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Indiana State Fair opens for its 166th year, for many it's a family affair

The Baker Man.jpeg
Posted at 10:44 AM, Jul 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-28 12:18:15-04

INDIANAPOLIS — The 166th annual Indiana State Fair is open and runs through Sunday, Aug. 20.

It’s closed on Mondays & Tuesdays.

The State Fair offers deals and discounts throughout its 18-day run, including more than a hundred free things to do for families and children.

It’s been a celebration of Indiana’s agricultural roots since 1852.

The fair is nationally recognized for offering great entertainment, showcasing 4-H youth, interactive agriculture education programs, premier facilities and a variety of unique, fun foods.

“It’s the family. It’s the fun. It’s the smells," Holly Launder said.

Launder manages the Mini Donut Factory concession stand at the Indiana State Fair.

There, donuts come by the bag or the bucket, covered in powder sugar or cinnamon.

“And then we have some chocolate you can sprinkle on top, squirt on top," she said.

The Baker Man owner Trent Wilkes also specializes in decadent desserts — cinnamon rolls, New Orleans-style beignets and elephant ears.

“We definitely pride ourselves in being a family owned business. It’s a family operated business. We makes a lot of memories and have a good time together," Wilkes said.

The Green County resident and his wife have been preparing for opening day since Sunday.

Some days they’ll start at 6 in the morning and won’t wrap up until 11 at night.

“It’s been a long week but we were ready to go this morning," he said.

Concessions are in Wilkes’ blood. He had his first gig working for family friend at 10 years old, before opening up his own stand at 15.

He bought The Baker Man back in 2021, in hopes of keeping Hoosier staple alive.

“The Baker Man has actually been at the state fair for over 40 years. It’s become a tradition for a lot of people especially, our friends back at the swine barn," Wilkes said.

For many the Indiana State Fair is a family affair.

That’s the case for southern Indiana native Klara Leach, whose family travels two hours to Indianapolis every year to attend the fair.

She’s the 2023 Indiana Yorkshire Queen.

She says the pageant is not a traditional one. Nine other women are adorned in crowns and sashes this week, each representing their pure bred breed.

Winners are chosen based on their knowledge of agriculture — through interviews, speeches and essay questions.

The 18-year-old just graduated high school and is excited to attend college in the fall to study agriculture.

“Growing up, going to the barn was always my sense of peace and happiness. I think that I’ve found my true passion within the agriculture industry, specifically with pigs, swine and livestock. That’s why I ultimately chose it as a career," Leach said.

She says one of her favorite parts about the fair is the delicious food.

Her top picks are the jumbo corn dog and the sirloin tips.