Lebanon Reporter

Columns

March 29, 2014

Will beer, wine at state fair be win-win-win?

During the most recent legislative session, lawmakers removed a 67-year ban on alcohol sales at the Indiana State Fair, and Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill into law; it will take effect July 1.I have mixed feelings about that; so I started digging into how it will work, and asking other people how they feel about it. Turns out, some of my Facebook friends have the same questions and concerns.

The move was cited as an opportunity for Indiana-based breweries and wineries to showcase their products. I’m glad someone’s lobbying for those businesses — the Hoosier state has many wineries and breweries making excellent products, and that number continues to grow. According to a news release from the office of Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis), who co-authored the bill, Indiana has 82 breweries and more than 80 wineries.

Both the wine and craft beer industries have organizations that promote them: the Indiana Wine Grape Council and the Brewers Guild of Indiana. Each has a slew of adult events and promotions. Are state fairgoers — a traditionally family-oriented bunch — the best audience for their products?Of the Facebook friends who responded to my request for feedback on the issue, the vast majority wondered why alcohol would be served at a family-oriented event — especially, as Karen pointed out, when there are so many other places to drink.

Beth asked, “When did the state fair stop being about the kids??”Lisa agreed, “...it’s about the children not a place for people to drink!!!”Ashton, in her 20s and not yet a parent, said: “The state fair is a place for young people to show pride in the work they have done, a place for families to enjoy and learn. Are we wanting to teach our kids that we just can’t have a good time without alcohol?”But Indiana State Fair Public and Media Relations Director Andy Klotz said, “We can’t ignore the beer and wine industry at the fair anymore. They deserve to tell their story like all other ag producers.”Fair enough. While the Indiana State Fair is progressive and avoids a major country bumpkin image, it is a showcase for Indiana agriculture as well as 4-H youth.

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