Cheerleaders converge on the Indiana State Fair

The Indiana State Fair kicked off cheerleading season Saturday with its annual competition.

Featuring 32 middle- and high-school squads from across Indiana, the competition was broken up into six divisions.

Attracting schools like Huntington North, Cathedral, Southport, Brownsburg and more, the competition is an opportunity for squads to showcase their spirit through chants and stunts.

To help grab the attention of judges during their performances later, cheerleaders sat in the stands helping each other tease their hair to give it some volume. Big sparkly bows, bobby pins, and lots and lots of hairspray created the total look as they prepared for their performances.

Though their cheer persona is perky and enthusiastic, a lot of nerves set in right before show time. Greenfield Central High School cheerleaders Maddy Lisk and Logan Gruell, both juniors, said that before they get on the mat to perform, a lot of butterflies and jitters get to them. But once they step out there, the routine just comes to them naturally.

PHOTO: Alexandria Sherman, Sydney Jacquess and Kelsey Bruner, part of the Pioneers of Boonville High School, pose for their finishing move during the preliminary round of the cheerleading competition at the Indiana State Fair (courtesy Jordan Huffer/BSU Journalism at the Fair)

Screaming loud and proud for their kids from the Grandstands, friends and families jingled cowbells, shook pom-poms, and jumped up and down as their squad ran across stage. Cheer moms and dads represented their children by wearing matching shirts with “cheer mom” or “cheer dad” on the backs and the school logo on the front. Getting into the routines just as much as their cheerleaders on stage, parents showed their enthusiasm by participating in the chants during performances.

“It's awesome, I love it. I really enjoy it,” said Brandy Daniels, mom of a West Jay Junior High School cheerleader. “It makes me cry.”

In preparation for an event like this, there are a lot of logistics that must be worked out. It involves a lot of communication with the State Fair, coaches and schools, said Christina Hunt, cheerleading competition coordinator of eight years. All Indiana schools are welcome.

For a lot of the squads, this contest at the Indiana State Fair is their debut before football season starts. For some, it is their only competition of the year, whereas others in the fall might go places like Kings Island to perform.

“This is a really good stepping stone for them to start out with their routine,” said Hunt. “For a lot of them, it's the first thing they'll do for the school year.”

As cheer squads huddled together to give pep talks and pray before they went on to perform, the girls came together with what is to them their second family and focused on what they needed to do.

Said Logan Gruell, a junior from Greenfield Central High School, “We just have to encourage each other because we know we can't hit it unless we're a team.”

Lauren Hughes is a writer for BSU Journalism at the Fair, a Ball State University immersive-learning project placing 25 student journalists at the heart of the Midway to tell the weird and wonderful stories of the 2014 Indiana State Fair.