Sometimes he sits on the bench outside the entrance of Pioneer Village. Other times he can be found riding shotgun in the buggy just inside the doorway.
“His eyes are what make him look so realistic,” said fairgoer Eric Ley of Chesterfield.
His name is Lester Chance, and he is the mannequin that “runs” Pioneer Village—or, thanks to his owner, Ty Nannet, serves as a mascot for the old-fashioned craftsmen and other volunteers in this popular corner of the Indiana State Fair.
Here are 10 things to know about the figure in the straw hat.
- Les has always been a family man
Lester Chance, who goes by Les for short, and his wife Anita have three children together.
“His first child was a little bigger so they called him Fat Chance, and his second son was very skinny, so they named him Slim Chance,” Ty said..
His family always wanted a girl, so they tried a final time at another kid. “Unfortunately they had another boy, so they named him Last Chance,” he said.
As you can tell, Ty is a man of many puns.
- Les has relatives in Cincinnati
His family members in Ohio have the last name Dunn.
“They had two boys, so some would say that they were Dunn for,” Ty said.
- Les’ first time at the State Fair
Les Chance had never been on the fairgrounds until this summer.
“He’s had a great time here, and he’s said he’s really excited to come back next year,” Ty said. “Well, he’s a man of few words so he didn’t say that much.”
- Les is currently retired
Les Chance was a farmer at a central Indiana farm for many years until he finally decided to call it quits.
“He started to get arthritis, so he decided to retire,” Ty said. “He has arthritis now if you couldn’t tell. He’s very stiff.”
- Les is talented in many different areas
When you first see Les sitting on the bench, you notice a bunch of ribbons hanging around his nametag.
“He’s won several different ribbons, including one for watermelon seed spitting,” Ty said.
However, Les has not won any blue ribbons yet.
“He’s OK at a lot of things, but not great at anything,” he said.
- Les doesn’t talk to many people
“He doesn’t speak to anybody, but on the bright side, he doesn’t talk back either,” Ty said. “You could cuss him out and he wouldn’t even care!”
- Les is not originally from Indiana
Les comes from the small town of Oblong, Illinois, which is about 25 miles away from Terre Haute.
“I first saw him at a fair and I knew immediately that I had to have fun with him,” Ty said.
- When Pioneer Village is closed, Les acts as security
After hours, Ty places Les in the Pioneer Village for safekeeping but he acts as a watchdog.
“People see him and they get scared. They think he’s our security guard,” he said.
- Les is arguably one of the most popular men at the fair
“I would say, he’s taken over 1,000 photos with people here this year,” Ty said.
Kids come by and pat his shoulders and stare him down, not quite knowing what to think.
- When the fair is over, Les heads to the West Coast
As soon as the Indiana State Fair concludes, Les will head to Arizona to watch over Ty’s cousin’s house. This is the benefit to having a lifelike mannequin.
“It took me two or three looks to realize that it wasn’t a real person”, said Bob Freeman of Indianapolis, a fellow Pioneer Village worker.
Hendrix Magley is a writer for BSU Journalism at the Fair, a group of 30 students telling Indiana’s stories from a trailer somewhere between the cheese sculpture and the state’s biggest sow. This Ball State University immersive-learning project works for elephant ears.