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What is the history of the Indiana State Fair?

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The first Indiana state fair was held in 1852, making Indiana the sixth state to hold such an event. Throughout its history, the fair has been predominantly held in Indianapolis, though cities including Madison, Fort Wayne and Lafayette, among others, substituted at various points during the 19th century. In 2014, the fair reopened after undergoing a $53 million renovation.

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The original 1852 fair was held largely due to the promotion of then-governor Joseph A. Wright, who wanted to boost agricultural interests in the state. In 1860, the fair was moved from Military Park to a more spacious 38-acre location north of the city. During the Civil War years, the fair was suspended and the Indianapolis location transformed into a prisoner-of-war camp for Confederate soldiers. The fair resumed in 1865, only temporarily reassigned to Fort Wayne.

Several tragedies have beset the Indiana fair, including a coliseum explosion in 1963 that resulted in the deaths of 74 people and injury to a further 400. In 2011, a roof collapse spurred on by storm conditions killed seven and wounded 58. The Indiana state fair has become a serious concert venue, over the years featuring such high-drawing acts as the Beatles, Jackson Five, New Kids on the Block and Sugarland. The fair has similarly boasted such diverse attractions as theme park rides, an exposition hall, a pavilion, a youth coliseum and thematically organized barns representing different animals.

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