INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
A nearly seven-decade-old ban on alcohol at the Indiana State Fair could
come to an end if lawmakers can reconcile desires to promote local brews
with concerns about maintaining the fair’s “family friendly” atmosphere.
An Indiana House
committee heard testimony Wednesday on a proposal to lift a ban on alcohol
at the fair. The bill passed the Senate but still needs approval from the
House and Gov. Mike Pence before it could take effect. A vote is expected
officials and beer brewers say the time has come to showcase Indiana-made
craft beers and wines alongside other agricultural products. Liquor, not
just wine and beer, also would be permitted if the bill becomes law.
“The No. 2 question
that’s asked at the fair,” state fair director Cindy Hoye said, “is, ‘Where
is the beer?’” She said the first question is about the location of
Hoye said alcohol
likely would be sold in an enclosed area open only to fairgoers age 21 and
older in what she called a “Disney World” approach. The Florida theme park
began selling beer and wine in the evening at a French restaurant in 2012.
Big Red Liquors
spoke in sole opposition to the bill during the hearing, citing concerns
that greater access to alcohol would lead to abuse.
Other critics have
expressed concern about underage drinking. Hoye said Facebook commenters say
they’re worried that alcohol sales could tarnish the fair’s “family
floated ideas to restrict alcohol sales after 9 p.m. to curb potential
abuse, but Hoye resisted further regulation. She said policies to deal with
alcohol sales already are in place at the fairgrounds and noted that alcohol
is allowed at the site throughout the year except during the fair.
alcohol-related offense reported during the fair was in 2007.
Lawmakers also are
considering measures that would allow excused school absences for youths
attending the fair to show animals or take part in other learning
A bill that would
allow up to five days of excused absences for such events passed the Indiana
House Education Committee 11-0 on Tuesday.
The proposal comes
as schools across the state shorten summer vacations and push school start
dates up, forcing students to either miss 4-H activities or skip classes.