Alcohol sales return to Indiana State Fair

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The Indiana State Fair is dry no more. At 1:00 pm Friday, the doors opened to the Indiana Beer and Wine Exhibition, ending 67 years of prohibition at the state fairgrounds.

A woman at the door greeted several dozen people saying, "Welcome to the State Fair's beer and wine tasting. We need two pieces of ID."

Matt Gentry was one of the first in line.

"They haven't served beer here since the 1940s. We're turning over a new page. It's exciting to be here," said Gentry.

Gentry, worked for a lawmaker behind the change in state law. Alcoholic beverages were banned after the 1946 fair. When the fair ran out of paper cups, they began selling bottled beer. Left with a mess, especially lots of broken glass, lawmakers said no more.

The exhibition, which runs from 1:00 to 9:00 pm daily in the Grand Hall, features craft beer and wine from 40-plus Indiana breweries and wineries.

Fairgoers must be 21 to enter. They get a red wristband with 3 pull tabs - allowing for three beverages at $5 a piece.

Sipping a craft beer, Marlies Barker, Indianapolis said, "It's fantastic. I like to have beer or wine. I'm from Germany and we see a lot of beer drinkers."

Patia Gaugh was also checking out the new exhibit.

"I think it's fine since it's an isolated thing and not all over the fair, but if people can just sample, I think it's a good idea," said Gaugh.

Critics have been concerned that having beer and wine at the fair could ruin the family atmosphere or lead to problems.

Gary Slater, who heads the Iowa State Fair, was touring the Indiana Fairgrounds Friday. Slater said beer and wine have been available at the Iowa fair since prohibition ended.

Unlike Indiana, Iowa fairgoers can "carry beer throughout the fairgrounds."

Asked about issues they've faced, Slater said, "We just have minimal problems. We find it's the responsibility of the patron to make sure [they follow the rules] and we have state troopers throughout the fairgoers."

Slater said the beer and wine sales generate quite a bit of revenue for the Iowa State Fair.

While Indiana officials hope beer and wine sales here do likewise, they say at this point it's hard to predict. They want to see how the first year goes.