For nearly a week, people have lined up to get their yearly allotment of deep-fried Snickers bars, cookie dough and Kool-Aid.

Kids and the young in spirit are spiking their adrenaline on the carnival rides on the midway. The agricultural community is showing off the fruits of their harvest and enjoying the success bred from long hours raising their livestock.

The Indiana State Fair is a time when people throughout the state can look forward to taking part in beloved traditions, whether showing cattle or pigging out on food.

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But the state fair is also a hub for music and performances, often at no additional cost. For the remaining 10 days of the fair, a wealth of free entertainment awaits.

Longtime classic bands such as .38 Special and Blues Traveler will share the stage with emerging acts such as country darlings Maddie & Tae and Disney pop actress Laura Marano. Local musicians will showcase their skills, while Indiana favorites Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band will bring the house down on the final weekend.

To help readers take advantage of the fair before it ends, here’s a collection of the best free entertainment left to see.

The Fray

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Free stage

Why: In the late 2000s, few songs were as ubiquitous as the Fray’s “How to Save a Life.” The driving piano-heavy song rocketed up the charts after its release in 2005, eventually staying on Billboard’s Top 100 for 58 weeks. Their follow-ups haven’t been as successful, but for fans of pop-heavy modern rock, their repertoire will surely strike a chord.

Split Rail

When: 8 to 9:30 p.m. today

Where: Main Street Stage

Why: This Morgan County-based band focuses on hard-driving country songs with a little bit of soul. A bulk of the band has been playing since they were teenagers, and that cohesion shows in tight, artfully crafted music.

.38 Special

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Free stage

Why: In the vein of fellow southern-rock mainstays such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, .38 Special has been pumping out carefree sing-along jams for more than 40 years. Hits such as “Caught Up in You” and “Hold On Loosely” will have the audience clapping their hands, belting out lyrics and dancing along with the groove.

The Bacon Brothers

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Free Stage

Why: Kevin Bacon made his name in the movies, starring is beloved flicks such as “Footloose,” “Animal House” and “A Few Good Men.” But when he’s not starring on TV or film, he and his brother, Michael, make some pretty good music. Their gritty style is a combination of rock, country, folk and soul.

Blues Traveler

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday

Where: Free Stage

Why: Like Jimi Hendrix on the guitar or John Bonham on the drums, John Popper is a virtuoso playing the harmonica whose skills are unrivaled in the world of music. The band’s jagged jam-band roots have been rounded off since their heyday in the 1990s, but the quintet can still work the crowd into a frenzy.

Maddie & Tae

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Free Stage

Why: In response to the male-dominated industry, Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye are flipping the script on the stereotypical country scene. Songs such as “Girl in Country Song,” “Fly” and “Shut Up & Fish” offer refreshing voices in the down-home world of country, and prove that though these young performers are new to the business, they have the talent and the temperament to find success.


When: 8 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Main Street Stage

Why: Coolidge was originally a side project of Chris Smail, guitarist and vocalist of legendary Indianapolis punk band Johnny Socko. The group blends post-punk and pop music together, filtered through trombone and saxophone to create what they call “horn rock.”

Anthony Hamilton

When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 18

Where: Free Stage

Why: Hamilton realized the persuasive and impactful power of music while performing in his church choir, and wielded that influence as he’s established himself in the world of R&B and hip-hop. The Grammy-nominated artist melds southern-tinged flavor with honest songwriting and impeccable delivery.

Mike Milligan & Steam Shovel

When: 8 to 9:30 p.m. Aug. 18

Where: Main Street Stage

Why: This soul, blues and rock band from Kokomo has worked with everyone from B.B. King to Aretha Franklin to Al Green. For more than 20 years, they have been touring the country, playing in such noted venues as House of Blues and at events such as the Super Bowl.

Laura Marano

When: 1 and 3:30 p.m. Aug. 20

Where: Free Stage

Why: Like many of big-name stars who had their start on the Disney Channel before moving on to mainstream success, Marano is a multifaceted talent. The actress is a favorite as half of the TV duo “Austin and Ally,” and has had roles in films such as “Superbad,” “Finding Nemo” and “Ice Age 2: The Meltdown.” Now, she’s embarking on a music career, having released her debut single “Boombox.”

Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band

When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 20

Where: Free Stage

Why: The gruff, rootsy, stomp-your-feet sound of this beloved Brown County band has spread beyond its Indiana homebase and earned fans throughout the country. Their twang and aesthetic are throw-backs from another era, reminiscent of the Delta blues in the early 20th century.

Mt. Dew Gospel Music Festival

When: 3 to 9 p.m. Aug. 21

Where: Free Stage

Why: On the final day of the fair, unwind with the smooth and uplifting sounds of some of gospel music’s most talented artists working today. Four-time Grammy winner Karen Clark Sheard will headline the event, with performances by the Chicago Mass Choir as well.

If you go

Indiana State Fair

Where: 1202 E. 38th St., Indianapolis

When: 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 8 a.m. to midnight Fridays; 8 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. Saturdays


  • General admission: $12
  • Children 5 and under: Free
  • Parking: $5
  • Midway wristbands: $30

Information and full schedule of events:

Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.