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Associated Press
Racing pigs head to the finish line Friday during a race on opening day of the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis.

High hopes for fair, despite cuts

– The first day of the Indiana State Fair brought plenty of people to the Indianapolis fairgrounds, despite cuts in state funding as well as smaller household budgets for many fair visitors.

The Indiana State Fairgrounds saw its total state funding – including money from the state general fund and riverboat casino taxes – decline from $8.8 million in 2009 to $6.9 million this year, fair spokesman Andy Klotz said. The fairgrounds, which runs the fair, reduced its full-time staff, renegotiated contracts with vendors and made other changes that Klotz said visitors won’t even notice.

“The entertainment is as good as it’s ever been, we have great exhibits and vendors are everywhere,” he said. “I don’t think that anybody will have a clue.”

But some visitors are still paying close attention to their own finances. Klotz says the fair is offering discounts, coupons and specials to help visitors stretch their money.

A voucher available online can get people into the fair for $2 instead of $8 on Tuesdays, which also feature deals for midway rides and food vendors. Information on deals, discounts and free events is available on the fair’s website.

The fair hopes to attract at least 900,000 visitors during it’s 17-day run. Last year, the first year the fair was extended to 17 days, more than 970,000 visitors came to Indianapolis.

For some visitors, a trip to the fair is cheaper than other vacation options.

Chad and Amy Jagger of Columbia City have taken their kids, 10-year-old Alissa and 8-year-old Cameron, to Cedar Point amusement park for several days during previous summers.

But this year they decided to save money by staying closer to home.

“We’ve taken a lot of one-day trips rather than take one big trip this year,” Amy Jagger said after watching pig races with her family at the fair. Admission to Cedar Point costs $45.99 per person, compared with $8 for the fair.

The Jaggers also found other ways to save. They were driving back to their small farm Friday evening instead of staying in a hotel and tried free ice cream samples. The kids said they were having fun, with Alissa wanting to see the animal barns and Cameron on a quest for cotton candy.