Family, home and heart: State fair craftsmen preserve almost-lost pioneer arts

Vernon Mithoefer of Moorseville, Ind., works on a wooden wheel at the Pioneer Village at the Indiana State Fair. (photo courtesy Taylor Irby/BSU Journalism at the Fair)
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Whether it's old farm equipment belching black smoke, the sweet smell of kettle corn or the rumble of an antique tractor, the Indiana State Fair's Pioneer Village recreates a rich Hoosier past for all to see.

This is especially true in the case of historical craftsmen who set up shop for the public's viewing pleasure.

“I think it's important to know the history of how we got where we are, food- and fiber-wise,” said Pioneer Village manager Tim Nannet. “We're tricking them into learning something they might not have taken time to understand if it hadn't been presented in an entertaining way.”

The open-air stalls play host to a range of different tradesmen, who put their work and skills on display. However, this isn't the day job of most of these enthusiasts, and how they acquired these historical skills is often a story in itself.

“I think you can inspire people in today's world,” said Candy Yurcak, a cook in Pioneer Village. “I hear time and time again that people love the feel: family, home and heart”

Jeremy Ervin 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.