Indiana State Fair participants influencing school start date debate

2017 Indiana State Fair participant tending to a pig


INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana State Fair is a juggling act for some Hoosier families, but this could change in the future if some lawmakers get their way.

Right now, hundreds of Hoosier kids are busy showing animals at the Indiana State Fair. “Hard work is really hard, but you learn something from it,” student Allie Henkins said.

Henkins is at her first fair showing off her pig, Billy. “He really likes marshmallows,” Henkins said.

An experience Henkins has waited for all summer. “I get really nervous,” Henkins said.

The nerves aren’t with all kids. Katie Blacker is a state fair veteran. For her seventh fair, she’s brought, Sam.

“We have to name our pigs when we sell at the auction,” Blacker said. “I didn’t end up selling him, so we came up with names in our barn.”

It’s not all fun, as these kids have to find time to read in between shows. “I’m trying to balance my summer homework when I’m trying to be at the state fair,” Blacker said.

Both girls start school next week, leaving parents with a difficult decision because the fair continues well past they are supposed to return to school.

“You are juggling taking animals down to the state fair, making sure all the tack and everything is packed up and into the tailor,” parent Stephanie Neal said. “You also have to get school supplies ready.”

“We treat this as a learning experience too,” Jamie Blacker said. “They are going to be a little behind in their classes, but they’re good students and they’ll catch up.”

Because of this, lawmakers told the Indiana Statehouse Bureau they will introduce bills to mandate a later school start date. Lawmakers said it’s not just to get more kids to show animals, but the tourism industry is hurting because of the earlier school start dates. Companies can’t keep employees because teens go back to school, and they’re losing revenue.

Opponents argue school start dates should be a local decision. No matter who decides, these kids wish they had more time to pig out.

“I would like spending time with Billy than going to school,” Henkins said. “I’m a fan of school, but I would miss class to come down here because this means so much more to me because this is my future,” Blacker said.

Lawmakers tried to get this bill passed this past session. It failed in the Senate by a single vote. Had it passed, schools wouldn’t have been able to start until the last Monday in August.