Thursday, August 18, 2011

Indiana State Fair Memories

Dear Reader,

In 1851 the Indiana General Assembly created a State Fair as “An act to encourage agriculture”, the sixth state to hold an official agricultural fair. Since that date, through times of joy and sorrow, there have been 155 Indiana State Fairs, three wars (Civil War, Spanish-American War, and WW II) intervening to cancel fairs. The fair has roved the state since its creation, initially being held in Military Park (downtown Indianapolis) and visiting, Lafayette, Madison, New Albany, Indianapolis (Camp Morton), Fort Wayne, Terre Haute before finding a permanent home in 1892.

In all this time the Indiana State Fair has remained relatively true to its roots – it is an agricultural festival, a celebration of the people and products that essentially are Indiana. The cattle might no longer arrive via the Monon and fairgoers might not travel to the fair primarily via the Nickleplate or interurban but the heart has remained true. I remember this every time I walk among the prairie style pavilions, smelling the elephant ears, funnel cake, and popcorn and listening to the discord of music combining with distant sounds of the midway.

I think that’s part of the reason I like going to the fair. Yes, I like seeing the animals and I won’t pass up the opportunity to try the latest, deep fried abomination the vendors are hawking but at its root my love of the fair is a love of the past. I like to think about what might have happened there on any particular evening in any particular year. What threads of life intertwined in front of the Coliseum in 1924 with the unraveling of the Teapot Dome Scandal? What about on the midway in 1939 with World War II waiting in the wings and the Great Depression choking the life out of the economy? What about the thousands of other lost moments scattered around the fairgrounds?

I thought about those moments while sitting on a bench across from the makeshift memorial to the victims of the Saturday, August 13 stage collapse. The fairgrounds are no stranger to tragedy; on October 13, 1963 an explosion in the Coliseum killed 74. That loss, like the recent losses, will be incorporated into the grounds; the memories of the departed will mingle with the summer air, remaining as long as memory allows.

So there is a tinge of sadness mingled with music and laughter. Wistfulness seems to be a good part of nostalgia. Pain can color memory. Hopefully those impacted by this latest disaster, once the tears have subsided, can reach back beyond their pain and remember a summer day when they might have walked the midway, laughed, and basked in the humid Indiana heat. If they can capture that moment, jar it like a firefly, then they’ll have its light for the rest of their lives.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Supporting the Fellow Expats

Dear Reader,

I’ve been lucky enough to know a few local artists. I’m fortunate enough to be married to a writer, someone who understands the process and the pains of writing, editing, and trying to get published. But I also know others in the art community - everything from television personalities to art teachers to video artists. Though we all don’t work together, we do make a sort of family. It’s like we’re expats, encountering one another in some smoky bar in a foreign land. We recognize each other, we share a few stories, we find comfort in what we share, and even though we go out to face the hard and alien landscape alone we still support one another.

Today I have the pleasure of supporting one of my fellow artists. Earl Harris has to be one of the most stylish gentlemen I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. He’s got three videos out, supporting a hip-hop radio station. Take a look!

Video 1

Video 2

Video 3

I'll share more of Earl's work when I get the opportunity!