A sizzling start: Bartholomew County Fair opens Friday with a hot forecast

Mike Wolanin | The Republic Spectators gather for the All-Star Circuit of Champions TQ Midget race during the Bartholomew County Fair at the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds in Columbus, Ind., Tuesday, June 28, 2023.

The 66th annual Bartholomew County Fair officially begins at 5 p.m. Friday, and organizers are prepared to sizzle under what will feel like a mid-August heat dome.

In the past, tents have been set up with picnic tables and cooling fans for those seeking shelter from sweltering conditions. Fair Board President Rick Trimpe says a new cooling station has been obtained and will be placed near the main entrance to the midway. Cool mist machines have been used in the past when fair organizers felt it was warranted.

Meteorologists are predicting high humidity levels and afternoon temperatures in the mid- to upper-90s through the weekend. Afternoon heat will feel like from 100 to 104 degrees, which may be hazardous to sensitive and vulnerable groups, as well as livestock animals on display.

“We may just have to adjust some check-ins for earlier in the morning for the animals,” Trimpe said.

As it stands now, Monday may be the most comfortable day of the fair with lower humidity and a high in the mid-80s. However, the temperatures will climb into the upper 80s to low 90s on Tuesday, and will likely do so each day through the remainder of the fair.

While the greatest chance of rain during the fair is Tuesday and Wednesday, fair officials know from experience that unpredictable pop-up storms frequently occur during heat waves.

Getting there

On a more optimistic note, fair patrons don’t have to worry about nearby road construction when they are heading to and from the fairgrounds.

“They were going to work on the railroad crossing along Speer Road, but we talked to them and they backed that off for another year,” Trimpe said.

Southbound State Road 11 is expected to be congested beginning Friday night. About 100,000 people attend the fair every summer. This year, there are 527 active 4-H members, according to the Purdue Extension office of Bartholomew County.

When the midway officially opens at 5 p.m. Friday, unlimited rides will be available with the purchase of a $30 wristband. The fair board receives 10% of all revenue collected on the midway.

Kissel Entertainment has brought in and managed the midway since 2021, and the Okeana, Ohio company is under contract for another three years, Trimpe said. Kissel, which began moving into the fairgrounds Sunday, has also been hired to provide the midways this year at state fairs in Ohio and Kentucky.

While traditional midday favorites will return, Kissel always brings a new ride to the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds every year, Trimpe said.

Big shows

Friday night’s grandstand attraction will be a 7 p.m. performance by the Indianapolis-based Woomblies Rock Orchestra. The group of 11 musicians, including a 4-piece string section and two horns, plays progressive rock and popular hits that includes Motown. Admission is $5 for adults, which children 12 and under are admitted free.

Following the release of a Bob Marley biopic in theatres earlier this year, interest in reggae music is high at this time. Indianapolis reggae performer Kingly T will perform at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings in the David Boll Theatre.

For decades, it has been a tradition that the first Saturday’s grandstand attraction will be the immensely popular Demolition Derby. The event attracts such a crowd that a Demolition Derby II is held exactly one week later on the final Saturday night. Both events begin at 7 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

Those who wish to get an adrenaline rush at the midway can enjoy unlimited rides from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday for a $25 wristband.

On Sunday, a $35 wristband will keep you on the rides from 3 p.m. until closing. Two tractor pull competitions will be held Sunday at the grandstand. The Southern Indiana Farm Stock Pullers Association will sponsor the 5 p.m. competition, while the Indiana Pulling League’s event gets underway at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Two of the most popular events come during the first two weekdays of the fair. A large crowd is anticipated at 7 p.m. Monday when the Three Bar J Rodeo is held in the grandstand. And the Tony Stewart Foundation Race always brings a packed house. The All Star Circuit of Champions TQ Midgets racing begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Admission to the rodeo and Tony Stewart Foundation Race will be $15 for adults, and $10 for kids 12 and younger.

Wednesday is Kid’s Day, where a $25 wristband will provide unlimited rises from 3 p.m. until closing. Trimpe says a new grandstand attraction on Wednesday evening will be the 7 p.m. Heartland Auto Racing Tour.

“Micro-midget racing is expected to bring in 75 to 100 cars that night,” Trimpe said. Admission will be $15 for adults and $10 for children 12 and younger.

More racing follows when the Southern Indiana Dirt Drags are held at 7 p.m. Thursday. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 4 to 12. Toddlers and infants 3 and under are admitted free.

The last two grandstand events are the antique tractor pull on Friday and the second Demolition Derby on Saturday. Both start at 7 p.m.

The parking fee at the fairgrounds, at $5 per vehicle, are split evenly between the fair board and Fraternal Order of Police Local 89, which uses proceeds to sponsor programs that assist local children.

Trimpe says the 21 fair board members, as well as several 4-H leaders, have worked hard to maintain the fairgrounds, while also running the 4-H programs and are looking forward to a successful fair this year.