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Fairly Curious: Does Anyone Exercise At The State Fair?

How do your legs and feet feel after a day at the Kentucky State Fair? Chances are, they're pretty worn out, because you've done a lot of walking. The fair is 520 acres, after all, with 1,200,000 square feet of exhibit space indoors alone.

But does anyone actually formally exercise at the fair? That's what our listener, Brian, wanted to know. "As fun as the fair is, I never associate it with a healthy lifestyle," Brian writes. But I found some folks who do.

Jon Pilbean is a recreation supervisor with Louisville Parks and Recreation. He says the agency has been producing programming for senior fair-goers for the last 40 years. "It started outside underneath an old oak tree," Pilbean says, but now their home is in Heritage Hall, part of South Wing C.

Glance at their schedule and you'll see activities like "What's in the Bag? Contest," "Senior Scam Forum," and "Bowling Bonanza." And every afternoon at 12:45, they host an activity called "Bingocise."

Bingocise instructor Bobby Wilson kicks things off with some light stretching.

"OK, let's take a big deep breath, hands above our head," Wilson says, instructing from a chair in the front of the room. "Slow exhale, slowly bring the hands down."

A couple dozen seniors seated around big, round tables follow along from their seats while Jimmy Buffett music plays quietly through overhead speakers. Wilson takes the group through three movements, then it's bingo time: "And now Mister Jon has some numbers."

The sequence continues like this — three exercise movements, three bingo numbers.

This is Opal Swift's second visit to the fair this year. She's 80 years old and says she's been playing bingo for around 40 years. She likes the exercises mixed in with the game.

"Oh I love them! It gets your shoulders all loosened up and your neck muscles," she says. "You know, your neck muscles get tight, especially at our age, if you don't use them a lot. And most people don't."

When instructor Bobby Wilson isn't at the fair, he works with seniors at Sun Valley Community Center in South Louisville. He says in a typical group of seniors, you'll have lots of different levels of ability.

"Some are vibrant and more youthful than others, and some just have range-of-motion difficulties," Wilson says. "We try to make it so everybody can do something."


The class/game combo lasts about 20 minutes, and by the end, Opal Swift has called bingo twice.

"I won two packages of Fig Newtons," she says with a laugh. Swift plans to consume her winnings while she's playing spades on the computer tonight, and she'll be back in Heritage Hall tomorrow. "I just like the atmosphere here," she says. "Everybody's friendly. I just love it."

Support for Fairly Curious comes from Teresa Wallace, realtor with Keller Williams Louisville, working to make the home buying and selling process fast and stress-free. More about Teresa at  TeresaWallaceRealtor.com.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.

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