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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Just out of curiosity

Friday, August 27, 2010

(Photo)
Dick Wolfsie
Liz Bowman loves the Indiana State Fair.

That's why she has gone more than 700 times.

Every single day of the Fair for 62 years.

She's not in the Guinness World Records book, but she's going to be in my book, "Indiana Curiosities," which I update every few years with the most unusual people I have met and places I have seen.

Liz arrives early in the morning, rain or shine, slips a band on her wrist allowing her unlimited rides around the grounds and hops on the first available tractor shuttle. Everyone knows Liz and waves as she passes by.

She rides the ferris wheel and the Tilt-a-Whirl. This year she even rode the mechanical bull.

She stays at the fairgrounds all day.

"The fair gets bigger and better each year," she says.

And she remembers them all.

Liz reminisces about how the fair has changed since the '50s. She points to a location like Pioneer Village and comments: "That used to be just farmland."

She says that a lot.

She's a fair nut, but not a health nut. Lunch and dinner include most of the traditional delights: Corn on the cob, Italian sausage and rib-eye sandwiches.

"And I love that fried, greasy stuff," she told me.

Then she sprinted off to buy a funnel cake.

So Liz will be in my new edition of "Indiana Curiosities." And so will Bob Brown of Fishers.

Here's what Brown did for me: He showed me one of the most unusual collections I have ever seen. And I've seen my share: Mousetraps, fire extinguishers, sugar packets, sprinkler heads, manhole covers ...

Bob collects candy bars.

Yup, a confection collection.

Not just the wrappers, either: The entire candy bar.

A self-admitted chocoholic, he admits to often buying two so he can sample one and frame one.

"Candy takes you back to your childhood. Everyone who sees my collection leaves with a smile on his face."

His assortment of treats spans about 25 years, and the 1,200 bars, all different, are displayed in shadow boxes.

Each glass-enclosed frame has a couple dozen products. There's no rhyme or reason regarding which bar goes into which case, as long as they fit perfectly into the 18x12-inch rectangles.

This requires moving the various-sized bars around as though each piece were part of a jigsaw puzzle. It's not an easy task for Bob, who's often on a sugar high.

All of the now 39 cases decorate the walls of his basement. When he first started, Bob's wife didn't mind the idea of candy as artwork.

Hanging up bars was better than hanging out at them.

Some of the candy bars have unique ingredients other than chocolate, like Tabasco sauce, bits of bacon, apple cider and chipotle peppers. Many of the bars are limited editions, celebrating famous people like President Obama and legendary racecar driver Dale Earnhardt.

There's even an Elvis Reese's Cup.

One gem is wrapped in a replica of an IRS form. "Take a Bite Out of Taxes," proclaims the package.

Frequent trips to the supermarket allow Bob to forage for new products to enhance his collection. As word of his display has spread, well-meaning people have been leaving chocolate bars in his mailbox, technically a federal violation.

Combine this with the 90-plus degree weather we've had in the last few weeks and Bob Brown finds himself -- despite what would appear to be a legitimate pastime -- in a very sticky situation.