4-H members from Harrison County, Indiana State Fair employees and other volunteers work on finishing a giant popcorn ball. It is made entirely from kettle corn from an Indiana company, Snax in Pax, and will be displayed during the state fair as part of its “Year of Popcorn” celebration.
4-H members from Harrison County, Indiana State Fair employees and other volunteers work on finishing a giant popcorn ball. It is made entirely from kettle corn from an Indiana company, Snax in Pax, and will be displayed during the state fair as part of its “Year of Popcorn” celebration.

INDIANAPOLIS — Every year, the Indiana State Fair has a different theme. This year is the Year of Popcorn.

Indiana ranks as the second-largest producer of popcorn in the U.S. To celebrate, a large popcorn ball was created to serve as the focal point at this year’s fair.

The ball will be unveiled in the Agriculture Horticulture building on Aug. 3.

The story behind the popcorn ball began in Topeka, home of Snax in Pax. The small-town Indiana company has been popping popcorn for 20 years.

When the education department of the Indiana State Fair asked Snax in Pax to create the world’s largest popcorn ball, owner Will Huggins was up for the challenge.

“It’s the centerpiece of the state fair, which makes it even more exciting for us,” he said.

Huggins said that, initially, the plan was to create the entire popcorn ball onsite in LaGrange County, but he felt like it would be a better idea to construct half of it at the fair.

“Being from Indiana and having been in 4-H when I was a kid, I felt it would be more beneficial for the fair itself if it was a community effort kind of project,” he said. “I suggested we build a portion of it, and they could use 4-H groups or volunteers to help create the remainder of the ball onsite.”

The construction process for the first half of the ball took less than 12 hours over the course of two days.

“Popcorn balls are basically just a lightly caramel-coated ball of popcorn,” Huggins said. “We met with the Indiana State Fair folks and Weaver and did some brainstorming on the best way to do this, and we come up with the idea of having them build a large mold, which looks like a large wooden cereal bowl, about four foot deep and eight foot across.”

The mold was filled with sticky caramel-coated popcorn to provide a solid base for the remainder of the ball to be built onsite at the fair.

The ball was loaded onto a semi and sent with the ingredients to make the rest of the caramel popcorn for the project.

“The folks at the state fair are going to use the machinery and the ingredients to make more syrup and double coat the already-made popcorn we already sent and form the remainder of the ball by hand,” Huggins explained. “When it’s all said and done, the goal is to weigh 5,200 pounds or larger.”

Sac City, Iowa, is home to the current world’s largest popcorn ball, weighing in at 5,000 pounds.

While Huggins said the popcorn ball is edible, he doesn’t recommend eating it because it will taste stale. After the fair is over, the ball will be broken apart and fed to livestock.

“They are going to have students figure out nutritionally how much of this thing the livestock can eat,” Huggins said. “How much sugar can cows or pigs or whatever they feed it to have? They are using it as a big display, but also for education.”

The popcorn ball will be used in other ways to teach fairgoers about the scale of Indiana’s popcorn industry.

“What fairgoers will be able to do is calculate how many ears went into making the popcorn ball and the retail price of it,” said Stephanie DeCamp, education director of the Indiana State Fair. “Family of Farmers is sponsoring the popcorn ball, so however many pounds it weighs, they are donating that many meals.”

DeCamp said that interested farmers can sign up to pick up the bakery byproduct after the fair, Aug. 20-21. To arrange a pickup, contact DeCamp at (317) 927-7566 or sdecamp@indianastatefair.com.